St. Paul City Attorney Sam Clark announced Thursday he is running for state attorney general.

“I’m running to be Minnesota’s next great progressive attorney general to make sure the law protects everyone, not just those who can afford it,” Clark said at his campaign kickoff at the Capitol. He was flanked by high-profile law enforcement officials, including the Hennepin and Ramsey County attorneys and former U.S. attorney for Minnesota Andrew Luger.

Attorney General Lori Swanson is exploring a 2018 gubernatorial bid and Clark is one of many vying for her job. On the DFL side, former Minnesota Department of Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman is running, as are Rep. Debra Hilstrom and former Rep. Ryan Winkler. On the GOP side, former Rep. Doug Wardlow is running.

Clark, 34, said his legal experience rivals the other candidates and he knows what it takes to lead lawyers. For nearly three years he has led an approximately 70-person staff in St. Paul, which handles about 11,000 criminal cases a year. He previously was state director and counsel for Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and before that worked at a Minneapolis firm where he defended municipalities in civil cases.

If elected, he would be the first person of color in the office.

Clark highlighted his work with Klobuchar on legislation to protect domestic violence and sexual assault survivors, and said as St. Paul attorney he created a victim service unit that has helped domestic violence survivors in immigrant communities.

Minneapolis City Attorney Susan Segal said Clark would work to ensure the safety of women in Minnesota and would focus on gender equity.

Clark, whose father was a district court judge, is a St. Paul native who grew up in the Rondo neighborhood and graduated from Cretin-Derham Hall before going to Harvard and Yale.

“He’s smart, he’s creative, he’s from the community,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said. “Sam understands that the job of the attorney general is not merely representing the state agencies and doing civil lawsuits on consumer protection, but caring about the criminal justice system and supplying support, particularly in greater Minnesota.”