Opinion editor's note: The Star Tribune Editorial Board's deliberations over the Minnesota attorney general's race led to a decision not to offer an endorsement of either incumbent Democrat Keith Ellison or Republican challenger Jim Schultz. Instead of publishing a single non-endorsement editorial, the board opted to offer readers separate pieces that reflect the best arguments board members had for each candidate. "The case for Jim Schultz" follows. Read "The case for Keith Ellison" here.

Editorial endorsements represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom. The board bases its endorsement decisions on candidate interviews and other reporting. A collection of all of the Editorial Board's 2022 endorsements can be found here.


It is true, as his detractors say, that Republican attorney general nominee Jim Schultz is young, at 36, and that the Harvard Law School graduate's practical legal experience at major Twin Cities firms is limited. Both candidates' pasts and track records are legitimate issues voters should consider in this race.

But as they do so in Schultz's case, voters should remember that Minnesota attorneys general going back to Walter Mondale and Skip Humphrey, and including incumbent Democrat Keith Ellison, have often initially brought more extensive political than courtroom credentials to the role. That Schultz has no lengthy political history should count as a point in his favor.

At all events, neither political shrewdness nor litigation expertise is what the Minnesota Attorney General's Office is lacking today.

It is lacking leadership with the right priorities.

Schultz has made his priority abundantly clear — to bring the influence and resources of the AG's office to bear on blunting a punishing wave of lawlessness and violence that has swept Minnesota for more than two years. Ellison's response is equally clear — fighting crime is really not his job. He patiently explains that the attorney general has limited prosecutorial authority, mainly to assist county attorneys who request help with complex criminal cases.

Ellison is right, technically, but requests for help might come more frequently to an AG's office with a robust criminal division and an outspoken commitment to creatively lead the fight against violent lawlessness. It is notable that U.S. Attorney Andy Luger has exhibited that kind of commitment this year, even though his federal law office has not traditionally focused on prosecuting street crime. Luger has announced a "new strategy" under which all his prosecutors will handle violent crime cases in addition to their other duties — a strategy designed, Luger declares, "as a signal to violent offenders to stop."

That is the kind of no-nonsense "tone" on crime Schultz is likewise promising when he says the next attorney general must "respond to the moment" confronting this community.

Ellison, as it happens, is himself proof that an attorney general has opportunities to send "signals" that affect public safety — for ill as well as for good. In 2021, he injected himself boldly into the debate over a Minneapolis charter amendment that would have diminished the city's police department. Entering the fight over a municipal charter dispute is hardly a core traditional function of the AG's office, but Ellison thought it important to stretch his role in that situation and make known his views on the city's public safety needs.

Trouble is, his views were hopelessly misguided, supporting a wishful, ill-formed, ultimately rejected plan that would have further weakened law enforcement in a city already in crisis.

Meanwhile, while the proper place of crime-fighting among the attorney general's responsibilities can be debated, there is no doubt whatever that defending state agencies' decisions in court and preventing corruption in nonprofit organizations are central AG duties. It would be hard to imagine a more complete failure on those fronts than the $250 million Feeding Our Future fraud against the Minnesota Department of Education.

As detailed in a Star Tribune report Friday, MDE paid many millions to criminals long after it suspected them of swindling taxpayers — largely, according to Ellison's own confusing account, because things were going badly for the department and Ellison's legal team in their attempt to fend off a lawsuit brought by brazen thieves. Evidently, MDE needed better legal representation than it got.

Schultz's position opposing abortion rights clashes with this Editorial Board's long-standing support for those rights. But he has properly pledged to "enforce and defend Minnesota law, whatever it is" and he should be held to that pledge should he be elected. Ellison, meanwhile, has declined to appeal a district court ruling striking down duly enacted abortion restrictions in Minnesota law.

Ellison, 59, has been in elective office for decades and is an articulate voice for progressive causes. But his policy-shaping zeal was a better fit in legislative work than in serving as the state's chief legal officer. The DFL has controlled the Minnesota Attorney General's Office for more than half a century. It is time for change, and Jim Schultz deserves a chance to provide it.

Editorial Board members are David Banks, Jill Burcum, Scott Gillespie, Denise Johnson, Patricia Lopez, John Rash and D.J. Tice. Star Tribune Opinion staff members Maggie Kelly and Elena Neuzil also contribute, and Star Tribune Publisher and CEO Michael J. Klingensmith serves as an adviser to the board.