ROCHESTER – Minnesota DFLers endorsed attorney and progressive activist Matt Pelikan for attorney general on Saturday after incumbent Lori Swanson unexpectedly dropped her bid for party backing.
Swanson left the DFL convention hall soon after. Spokesman Ben Wogsland later said she was “evaluating all of her options,” which could include running in the August primary. He noted that Swanson first won the attorney general seat in 2006 without the party’s endorsement.
Swanson narrowly led Pelikan with 52 percent support after the first round of balloting for the endorsement, but failed to reach the 60 percent needed to clinch it. She then dropped out.
Pelikan in his nomination speech went after Swanson, highlighting his progressive values and saying his top priorities would be “guns, drugs and antitrust.”
“A progressive leader does not have an A+ rating from the NRA,” Pelikan said, referring to Swanson’s 2010 endorsement by the National Rifle Association.
Swanson did not speak to the crowd before balloting, instead deferring to supporters. One, former Attorney General Mike Hatch, said Pelikan is not ready for the job.
“That was a shocker,” said Joe Kunkel, a retired political science professor and delegate from North Mankato who supported Swanson. He said it was a mistake for Swanson to not even speak to the crowd. “Maybe she wasn’t organized enough,” he said.
DFL Chairman Ken Martin called the outcome “surprising” but said the party would get behind all endorsed candidates.
Pelikan is an attorney in private practice in Minneapolis; his campaign received little attention since intraparty challenges to an incumbent are usually long shots. Still, Swanson has in the past faced public criticism from several prominent labor unions influential in DFL politics.
“Thank you for believing in a politics of hope, not fear,” Pelikan said after securing the endorsement.
In Duluth at the Republican convention, Doug Wardlow was endorsed for attorney general. He’s worked as legal counsel for the conservative Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom.
Wardlow lamented that DFLers have held the attorney general post for nearly a half-century. He accused Swanson of using the office for political gain by joining lawsuits to stop Trump’s travel ban and a plan to ask people their citizenship on the 2020 census.
“It opens up even more of a window of opportunity,” Wardlow said of Swanson failing to secure the endorsement.
Republicans endorsed John Howe, who used to be state senator and mayor of Red Wing, for secretary of state. Howe pledged to bring integrity back to Minnesota’s elections.
The party backed Pam Myhra for state auditor, an open seat this year. The former state representative touted her active license as a certified public accountant and experience as an audit manager at an international accounting firm, and said that people want transparency and accountability in how their tax dollars are used.
DFLers endorsed Secretary of State Steve Simon’s bid for a second term on Friday. The party is endorsing a candidate for state auditor on Sunday.