The Minnesota DFL Party is slamming Republican attorney general candidate Jim Schultz for his responses to a questionnaire that asked about banning abortion.
Except Schultz said he never wrote those answers, calling them "categorically false" responses written by a third party.
That third party is the Minnesota Family Council, which recently posted and then pulled down its 2022 voter guide. In an interview, Minnesota Family Council spokesman Moses Bratrud said his group "inferred" Schultz's positions on abortion and LGBTQ issues and that the Republican attorney general candidate never filled out the group's questionnaire.
"They did not fill out a single one of those questions," Bratrud said. "That position, as far as we know, never accurately reflected Jim Schultz's position."
Schultz's campaign reached out to the Minnesota Family Council on Tuesday night stating it never responded to the questionnaire and demanded it be taken down, according to a text message exchange reviewed by the Star Tribune.
"We are confused as to why responses were listed on our behalf," one of the campaign's texts said.
The questionnaire suggested that Schultz supports an abortion ban after fetal heartbeat is detected, around six weeks. Schultz, who has said he's "fundamentally pro-life," told the Star Tribune in July and again on Thursday that he supports a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy. But he has repeatedly said the office of attorney general should be apolitical and he wouldn't use the position to advocate for changes to abortion policy.
"I'm not a legislator. It's my job to enforce and defend Minnesota law, whatever it is," Schultz said Thursday.
Democrats are standing behind the attack as they try to portray Schultz's abortion positions as extreme in the close race to be Minnesota's next attorney general. Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin and Democratic incumbent Keith Ellison have scheduled a Monday morning news conference to discuss Schultz's abortion stance.
"I believe it is more likely than not that they deleted Schultz's survey to help him hide his anti-abortion extremism from Minnesota voters," Martin said in a statement. "It is no coincidence that, days after the Minnesota Republican Party sent a secret memo urging candidates to downplay abortion, an anti-abortion group purged their website of questionnaires related to abortion."
Minnesota Republican Party Chair David Hann sent a memo to all endorsed candidates last week encouraging them to respond to questions about abortion by saying it's a "protected constitutional right" before pivoting to crime, the economy and schools.
Before getting into politics, Schultz helped set up a crisis pregnancy center in Mankato and served on the board of the Human Life Alliance, a nonprofit that creates and disseminates materials on abortion, some of them controversial.
Abortion is one of the issues at the center of the battle for the state's top legal office, and it is a key motivator in midterm races in Minnesota and across the country. Around 22% of Minnesota voters ranked abortion as the most influential factor in their decision for governor, according to the latest Star Tribune/MPR News/KARE 11 Minnesota poll.
That poll found Ellison and Schultz nearly tied, with Ellison leading by slightly more than 1% — well within the poll's margin of error.
Ellison has stood firmly behind abortion access following the U.S. Supreme Court's overturn of Roe v. Wade. He vowed to defend people traveling to Minnesota for abortions and did not challenge a district court ruling that struck down state laws restricting abortions.
Schultz has said he would appeal that ruling, which removed requirements around parental notification, informed consent and a 24-hour waiting period.
Abortion access is constitutionally protected in Minnesota under a 1995 state Supreme Court ruling known as Doe v. Gomez. The state is expected to become a destination for the procedure in the Midwest, with neighboring states such as South Dakota and Wisconsin immediately banning the procedure after Roe's reversal.
The Minnesota Family Council is a nonpartisan Christian organization that advocates to incorporate Biblical principles in government and laws, including restricting access to abortion. Groups use candidate questionnaires during the election season to glean the positions of candidates on their top issues.
In a similar voting guide questionnaire from Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, the state's largest anti-abortion group, Schultz responded yes to a question that asked if he'd support their "incremental approach" to allow for the "greatest number of lives saved while working toward our ultimate goal of establishing respect for human life in our laws and culture."
MCCL did not return a request for comment on what their incremental approach entails.
Schultz said when he responded yes to the MCCL survey, he meant that he would support and defend any abortion laws that are on the books now or in the future.