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 Keith Ellison" follows. Read "The case for Jim Schultz" 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.


Attorney General Keith Ellison has a long history of public service to Minnesota, as a state representative, U.S. congressman and now attorney general. He has a strong record of taking on those who would cheat, defraud or exploit others. Such a mission is uniquely suited to his current role.

A state attorney general's primary duty is to serve as counsel to the state and its agencies and to act as the "people's lawyer" on behalf of its citizens. That long tradition of protecting consumer and civil rights has been particularly strong in Minnesota, stretching back to former Vice President Walter Mondale's stint in the AG's office.

The role is not, as GOP rival Jim Schultz would have you believe, to function as the state's top criminal prosecutor. The power to prosecute criminal cases, by statute, rests primarily with elected county attorneys. The attorney general cannot intercede unless asked to do so by a county attorney or the governor. That has happened 47 times in Ellison's tenure. He's won the 26 cases brought to resolution, with 21 cases in progress.

Among his successful prosecutions was the nationally scrutinized trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who was found guilty of murdering George Floyd. It was the first time a white police officer in Minnesota was convicted of killing a Black person. The union representing Chauvin has endorsed Schultz.

That kind of record speaks to careful attention to detail and management skills found in a seasoned litigator who knows how to oversee large and complex trials and teams of lawyers. In addition to 16 years as a trial lawyer, Ellison, 59, also led the Legal Rights Center of Minneapolis. His entire career has, in a way, prepared him for the office he now holds. In Congress he served 12 years on the Financial Services Committee, overseeing the finance and housing industries and founding the consumer justice caucus.

As attorney general, Ellison was instrumental in a $26 billion, multistate agreement that held pharmaceutical manufacturers accountable. That netted Minnesota alone $300 million to fight illegal use of opioids, including fentanyl.

Ellison went to court to defend the Affordable Care Act, which is vital to the health needs of more than 2 million Minnesotans, and he took on Sparboe Farms, the largest egg producer in the state, for alleged pandemic price gouging. The company later donated more than 1 million eggs to the needy as a settlement.

In a fraud investigation started by his predecessor, Ellison continued the effort to hold now-defunct Globe University accountable for alleged fraud and won $39 million in restitution and debt forgiveness. During the pandemic, he also fought scores of illegal evictions.

Schultz, 36, is a hedge fund lawyer with no courtroom experience, no managerial experience and no record of public service. His proposal to transfer 30 attorneys from the civil to criminal division (which now has three prosecutors) would bring the other important work the office does to a virtual halt. Ellison for three years asked for funding to hire seven additional criminal lawyers and was rejected each time by the GOP Senate.

Schultz told the Star Tribune Editorial Board that he would defend the rights of pharmacists who refused to dispense abortifacients even if a woman has a valid prescription. Schultz also said in one primary forum that he would create a "Constitutional Defense Council" within the AG's office. In an MPR interview, he said he would uphold Minnesota abortion laws but wouldn't work with attorneys from other states who could prosecute people traveling to Minnesota for abortion services.

Ellison supported a city charter amendment to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department and replace it with a department of public safety. The Editorial Board disagreed strongly with that choice, and the amendment was soundly rejected by Minneapolis voters in 2021.

Ellison also represents the state in the Feeding Our Future debacle, the country's largest known case of pandemic fraud, involving hundreds of millions of dollars. Ellison said he could not share everything he knew with the court without risking a Justice Department investigation.

If elected to a second term, Ellison should continue the strong consumer and civil rights work that is a primary function of the office. But just as he used his bully pulpit to weigh in on police reforms and the Minneapolis amendment, he should commit to becoming a stronger voice on more effective public safety.

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.