ST. PAUL, Minn. — Republican Minnesota Attorney General candidate Doug Wardlow told a group of supporters that he would fire "42 Democratic attorneys right off the bat" and replace them with Republicans if he wins in November, according to a recording that Minnesota Public Radio News obtained.
Wardlow made the remarks during a private fundraiser for GOP Rep. Jason Lewis in Shakopee on Monday. The Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party gave the radio station the recording, which was made by a party staffer who attended the event.
"It's really exciting now to be in a position for the first time in a half century to take this office back," Wardlow said. "We're going to fire 42 Democratic attorneys right off the bat and get Republican attorneys in there."
His promise to clean out Democrats from the state's top law enforcement office stands in contrast to his campaign promise that he wouldn't be partisan. Wardlow has repeatedly criticized Democratic candidate Keith Ellison for being too political.
Campaign spokesman Billy Grant portrayed Wardlow's comments as in line with his campaign promises.
"As Doug has said on numerous occasions, he will appoint assistants and deputies who believe in the rule of law and the constitution," Grant said. "There will be no litmus test for party affiliation."
Public polling shows Wardlow and Ellison are locked in an unusually close race for an office that Democrats have easily held for five decades. Incumbent Democratic Attorney General Lori Swanson is leaving office after three terms and a failed bid for governor.
Ellison, a fifth-term congressman from Minneapolis, has been dogged by an ex-girlfriend's allegation that he once physically abused her. Karen Monahan said in August that Ellison tried to drag her off the bed in 2016 and that she has video proof. She has given several explanations for why she hasn't released the alleged video, including that it had been misplaced on a thumb drive, was in storage and that it would be embarrassing to reveal.
Ellison has denied that it happened. An investigation by an attorney connected to the DFL party could not corroborate the allegation, largely because Monahan declined to provide the video.
But Wardlow, a little-known former state lawmaker, called that investigation a sham and said the allegation makes Ellison "unfit" for office.
Meanwhile, a Hennepin County family court referee on Friday granted a request from media organizations to unseal Ellison's divorce file. Jason Hutchison ruled that Ellison and his former wife, Kim, had no greater expectation of privacy than other citizens whose files are public. Hutchison said the file would be made public next Wednesday. Ellison's attorney said she would appeal.