Keith Ellison offered two disparate futures to Minneapolis supporters, whose turnout next month could determine whether he spends four more years as the state's lawyer-in-chief.

"It is stark," the Democratic attorney general told dozens of volunteers preparing to knock on doors Saturday in the city's southwest corner. "Women's rights versus not. Consumer action versus not. Workers rights versus not. Climate action versus more crazy, mad, just ignoring the damage to our climate."

The former Fifth District congressman was on familiar turf, talking about familiar issues. Civil rights. Worker protections. The environment. Ellison's supporters said he has championed the same themes for decades, throughout his professional evolution from defense attorney to state legislator to congressman then attorney general.

But in the campaign brawl to be Minnesota's chief legal officer, two topics have dominated: crime and abortion.

Republican candidate Jim Schultz, a corporate attorney and political newcomer, has continuously condemned Ellison's approach to public safety and policing. Ellison has vowed to protect abortion rights and says Schultz would not.

Whoever emerges from one of the state's most contentious races will manage an office that has largely focused on the unglamorous work of consumer protection and state government representation. As Ellison often stresses, the attorney general handles criminal prosecutions only at county attorneys' request. Nonetheless, many law enforcement officials said their relationship with the Attorney General's Office has frayed over Ellison's term.

"This is the first three to four years that the attorney general has not been a part of the discussion of what's best for public safety. I haven't seen him," said Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher, one of the 22 sheriffs that joined the state's largest police association in giving their support to Schultz.

Ellison, who has the support of many county attorneys, said there's "absolutely" more to be done with police on public safety concerns. But he added that some endorsements come down to politics, and "some folks are just plain-old conservative."

"I support them, they can endorse whoever they want," said Ellison of police. "I'm here to work with them."

Crime and abortion weren't the topics of the moment when Ellison landed the job four years ago. His narrow win over Republican Doug Wardlow followed a bitter fight where each side ripped into the other's past.

Ellison, 59, made history, becoming the first Black person and first Muslim to win a statewide constitutional office in Minnesota. He quickly pushed back against then-President Donald Trump's policies and focused on fighting for "fairness," including investigating employers for wage theft and suing landlords for tenant exploitation.

New York Attorney General Letitia James said she partnered with Ellison and others during the Trump era to protect the health care of LGBTQ individuals, enforce environmental laws, preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program and more. James, a Democrat, said her approach to the job "comes from my heart," while Ellison is "very cerebral and he's a voice of reason."

His challenges to Trump administration policies were met with sharp rebukes from Republicans, who said he has politicized the Attorney General's Office. But James said Ellison's calm demeanor and desire to find bipartisan interests, such as cryptocurrency and cybersecurity, have made him a leader in national attorney general associations.

Within the office, he was also making changes. Former Deputy Attorney General Christie Eller retired last year after about 43 years there. She said Ellison has been hands-on, listened to staff and increased diversity. "There's been a big impact upon the staff of the Attorney General's Office and making them feel valued," she said.

But the police killings of George Floyd and Daunte Wright landed Minnesota's attorney general on the global stage.

At the Hennepin County Attorney's request, Ellison's office led the prosecution of ex-police officers Derek Chauvin and Kim Potter, resulting in their convictions. He said his decades as an attorney, including leading the nonprofit Legal Rights Center, were critical as he ran meetings and practice sessions, organized witnesses and recruited the team that worked on the high-profile cases.

"How can you critique something that you don't know? How can you give good advice if you don't know?" Ellison said of Schultz, a 36-year-old lawyer who most recently worked for the investment firm Värde Partners and lacks courtroom experience. "We're talking about not much trial experience, but how much management experience does he have? I haven't seen any."

Amid those cases, the nation and Minneapolis demanded changes to policing. Ellison, who lives in the city, supported the effort to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a department of public safety. The failed amendment would have ended a re­quire­ment that Minneapolis main­tain a Police Department with a min­i­mum num­ber of of­fic­ers.

"Him getting behind defunding the police, people are much more troubled by that than anybody's experience," Schultz said.

Ellison said he is "certainly not" a supporter of defunding police, and said Mayor Jacob Frey is making a lot of the reforms he hoped to see.

The attorney general also landed in the spotlight as he enforced Gov. Tim Walz's executive orders amid COVID-19. Ellison's mother died from complications of the virus, which he said gave him less patience with those who flouted COVID restrictions.

GOP lawmakers questioned his decision to sue some businesses that refused to follow Walz's closure orders. Those suits prompted some Senate Republicans to dismiss his funding request for more criminal prosecutors — something both he and Schultz are seeking, though Schultz has proposed adding about five times as many attorneys.

"The Attorney General had plenty of time and resources to shut down businesses last year, I think he has enough time and resources to prosecute crime now," Republican Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, who leads the State Government Finance Committee, said in a statement rejecting Ellison's push for seven more criminal prosecutors earlier this year.

Ellison has faced criticism from GOP legislators and opponents throughout his term, including recent questions over whether he did enough to stop an alleged scheme to bilk $250 million from a federal child nutrition program. Ellison's office emphasized its work with the Minnesota Department of Education to provide information to the FBI. Schultz said that was insufficient and he would have immediately worked to start a criminal investigation.

As Election Day nears, a Star Tribune/MPR News/KARE 11 Minnesota Poll from September found Ellison nearly tied with Schultz. It remains to be seen whether Ellison, a former deputy chair of the Democratic National Committee, can maintain his reputation for driving turnout.

On Friday he was sandwiched between U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders in a lineup of progressive heavy-hitters he assembled at Northrop Memorial Auditorium. College students roared their approval for Ellison's vow to protect Minnesota as an "island of rights" on abortion and also for his lawsuit claiming fossil fuel companies deceived the public on climate change.

If voters grant him a second term, Ellison reflected recently on what he would do. He returned to familiar themes.

"We want to make sure this is a fair economy," he said. "At the end of the day, we want to protect people's pocketbooks, we want to protect their rights and we want to protect their safety."

Staff writer Ryan Faircloth contributed to this report.

A report on GOP candidate Jim Schultz was published Tuesday.