Arizona has it right on immigration, Republican gubernatorial candidates Tom Emmer and Marty Seifert said Wednesday.

The new Arizona law makes it a state crime to be in the country illegally and authorizes police officers to ask people for proof of citizenship and hand illegal immigrants over to federal enforcers.

On Minnesota Public Radio, Seifert and Emmer said the controversial law moves in the right direction.

"Illegals cost all of us," Emmer said. "I think what Arizona did was a wonderful first step."

Seifert said the law may serve as a blueprint for his administration.

Emmer and Seifert are leading candidates for Friday's Republican Party endorsement. Both have pledged to drop out if they're not endorsed.

The man they seek to replace isn't so sure about the Arizona law.

"We need to be thoughtful about this. You need to make sure it is a fair and balanced approach," Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty said during an appearance at a Los Angeles conference on Tuesday evening.


At last, a GOP AG candidate

Holding his first news conference on the eve of the state GOP convention, Republican Chris Barden said Wednesday that Minnesota needs an attorney general who will challenge the constitutionality of the sweeping federal health care legislation passed by Congress and President Obama.

Barden, a lawyer, psychologist and expert witness, criticized state Attorney General Lori Swanson, a DFLer, for refusing to join a lawsuit challenging the health care legislation. He said his belief that the legislation should face a constitutional challenge played a large role in his making a late entry into the race and acknowledged that he "didn't even know anybody over at the Republican Party probably three months ago."

"This is my first press conference -- ever. I hope it went OK," he said after he spoke to reporters at the State Capitol.

Even before Barden stepped before the microphone Wednesday, he drew criticism from the DFL Party, which in a statement said that he had moved back to Minnesota only after an unsuccessful school board race in Utah and that he was unqualified for the job.

"His primary occupation is earning top dollar as a hired expert witness for and against psychologists, psychiatrists, priests and patients in personal-injury trials, malpractice claims and criminal matters," a party spokesman said in a statement.

In response, Barden said he had moved back to Minnesota in 1992 but spent time in Utah caring for his mother-in-law until moving back permanently in August 2007. "I've been paying taxes here since '92," he said.

Barden criticized Swanson over a series of widely reported episodes of dissension in her office, including a large number of attorneys who left following her own election. He also said that Swanson should have taken a more major role to prevent problems in the 2008 election that led to the U.S. Senate recount. "I don't think anybody knows" whether there was widespread voter fraud in the election, he said.

But Barden made clear that Swanson's decision not to challenge the federal health care legislation was a major reason he's running. A briefing paper from his campaign, released Wednesday, said that "for the first time there is a high-visibility national issue of importance framing the AG race."

The Republican Party is slated to endorse an attorney general candidate Friday. Until Barden's entry this month, the party lacked someone to challenge Swanson.