Republican A.G. Candidates Meet to Challenge Incumbent Keith Ellison


Five Republicans have declared their candidacy for Minnesota Attorney General (AG).  Three of these candidates, Tad Jude, Jim Schultz, and Doug Wardlow met on the stage of Providence Academy in Plymouth on March 31 for a forum billed as “an evening with leading Conservative Candidates for Minnesota Attorney General”, hosted by the Minnesota Family Council and co-sponsored by AlphaNews, the Freedom Club, and AM1280 The Patriot.

The candidates had 75 seconds each to briefly answer a series of questions.

During a halftime break, the audience of almost 270 likely Republican voters voted in a straw poll for their preferred candidate to defeat the incumbent, Keith Ellison. Attorney and former MN Representative Dennis Smith declined the invitation to participate, and lawyer Lynne Torgerson dropped out two days before the forum.  As a result, neither of these candidates appeared on the straw poll ballot.

Attorney and former MN Representative Doug Wardlow stressed his background in defending First Amendment freedoms with a national legal group.  He pledges to “stand with law enforcement, stand up for job creators, and crack down on sanctuary cities.”

Attorney Jim Schultz has served on the board of several private foundations and non-profits.  He would prioritize “public safety at every level of government to address the crime plaguing our communities.”

Judge Tad Jude, a former MN representative and Hennepin County Commissioner, pledged “to restore integrity and justice to a broken system.” Jude got a laugh from the crowd when he promised to “make crime illegal again.”

Liz Collin and Pafoua Yang (of AlphaNews) and John Helmberger (CEO of Minnesota Family Council and Institute) put together a wide-ranging series of questions that focused on controversial actions and inactions of the current DFL Attorney General.  All three candidates responded with how the state’s highest legal office would change if they are elected to be our next AG.

Doug Wardlow stressed that he would aggressively prosecute crime.  Unlike Ellison, he would not seek to take over the prosecution of highly visible cases that should be dealt with at the county level.  Rather, he would publicly offer to make resources available from his office to help in dealing with these cases, and make it unpalatable for the county prosecutors to decline these offers.  He would also partner with the Federal Prosecutor to bring up cases best tackled at that level.   He would defend the Constitutional rights of parents, fight human trafficking, advocate for voter ID, litigate to keep biological males out of women’s’ locker rooms, and shield medical practitioners from political pressure.  Wardlow explained that the AG has his own statutory power to sue, and that he would have sued the Governor over abuses of his Emergency Powers, such as vaccine mandates and implementing overreaching rules proposed by OSHA.

Tad Jude would bring common sense back to the justice system, making sentences better match the crime.  He would help county attorneys to achieve a level playing field in criminal cases.  Unlike Ellison, Jude would defend state laws, even those with which he personally did not agree.  When asked about the Attorney General’s role on the state’s Executive Council, Jude stated that the Executive Council failed the state and became a rubber stamp to the Governor’s exercise of Emergency Powers.  He supports voter ID and paper ballots, reducing the early voting period, and creating an office of election integrity under the Attorney General.  He would fight human trafficking and push the Governor to use common sense in appointing people to the licensing boards of medical and legal professionals.

Jim Schultz would reallocate personnel in the Attorney General’s office to focus on crime.  He would use his bully pulpit to pressure county attorneys and judges against supporting or giving low sentences for serious crimes, pushing for meaningful prison time.  He would stop the practice of “upcharging” for political reasons, as happened when Ellison took over the Kim Potter case.  Schultz pointed out the AG has statutory responsibility and authority to supervise Minnesota non-profits, and he would beef up the division within the AG’s office responsible for supervising non-profits.  He promised to stand up in the state’s Executive Council against any Constitutional abridgements, such as the closing of places of worship while allowing large stores to stay open.  Schultz spoke against Ellison’s failures in office, including vigorously prosecuting small business owners like Lisa Hanson who resisted Covid closure orders while ignoring Minneapolis rioters, and supporting consent decrees that defy the intent of the state legislature but ignoring cases of election fraud. 

When each was asked why he was the best candidate to take on Keith Ellison: Jim Schultz repeatedly emphasized he was a non-politician that comes from the private sector and added he is endorsed by the state’s biggest police and peace officer organization.  Doug Wardlow cited the experience of his close loss in his first race for Attorney General and his initiative to bring on as advisors to his campaign representatives of ten minority communities.  He spoke of his decades of experience defending Constitutional rights nationwide, particularly in religious freedom litigations.  Tad Jude stressed his ten election victories in metropolitan area in runs for State representative and County Commissioner, his experience in the state legislature, in county government, and on the bench.

AG_Forum_Straw_Poll_results.jpgAt the halfway point in the evening, the audience was asked to submit their straw poll ballots.  The results of 264 ballots cast are pictured here.  

All three candidates were asked if they would honor the Republican endorsement at State convention and support the winner of that endorsement in the general election. Both Schultz and Wardlow emphatically said yes. Jude was equally direct – he will not honor the endorsement, and will run in the primary if he does not get the party’s endorsement.