by Mike Knaak
Republican attorney general candidate Doug Wardlow stopped in St. Joseph Oct. 20 to meet with supporters before they began door-knocking.
The group of about two dozen people gathered in front of Sal’s Bar & Grill included local Republican candidates Lisa Demuth, who is running in House District 13A, and Jeff Howe, who is running in the special election in Senate District 13.
Howe’s contest with Democrat Joe Perske will decide which party controls the Minnesota Senate. The seat opened up when Michelle Fischbach, the longtime District 13 senator, resigned to run for lieutenant governor with Tim Pawlenty. Demuth, currently a Rocori school district board member, is running for Howe’s 13A seat in a race with Democrat Jim Read.
Wardlow’s opponent for attorney general is 5th District Rep. Keith Ellison. In a short speech to the group, Wardlow said it’s time to end Ellison’s political career on Nov. 6.
The attorney general’s contest has tightened in recent weeks over accusations about Ellison’s personal life and past relationships with women.
Wardlow has a chance to become the first Republican to hold the attorney general’s office in 48 years.
While charges and counter-charges about Ellison’s personal life have dominated the debate, Wardlow has based his campaign on a conservative vision of the attorney general’s role in state government with the slogan of keeping Minnesota fair and safe.
Wardlow has made illegal immigration and what he calls sanctuary cities a key issue.
In an interview before the rally, he outlined the details of his “fair and safe” agenda.
If he’s elected, Wardlow said he’d rebuild “the criminal division of the office making sure that county attorneys especially in greater Minnesota have the resources they need to do their job get convictions. And we also need to provide leadership on statewide criminal law like human trafficking.”
While the Central Minnesota Investigative Task Force has focused on the problem locally, Wardlow said he’d work for a statewide plan.
“It’s a terrible problem. And I look forward to working with nonprofits and law enforcement as well as our county attorneys to make sure that everyone has all the resources and training that they’re going to need to tackle this issue,” Wardlow said.
Wardlow frequently talks about “taking politics out of the office” and he criticized current Attorney General Lori Swanson’s actions to join lawsuits with other states seeking to overturn Donald Trump’s initial travel ban and suing the federal government to remove a citizenship question from the 2020 census.
“We are going to focus on keeping Minnesota fair and safe,” Wardlow said. “And that is the job of the attorney general not to be pursuing a national political agenda… I don’t think it’s appropriate to use the resources of the office of attorney general to bring lawsuits to try to circumvent Congress or to obstruct the agenda of the president no matter who the president is.”
The attorney general’s office provides legal counsel to state agencies to make sure they work within the boundaries of the statutory authority.
“When we do that it will help lift some of the regulatory burden on job creators,” Wardlow said. “The permitting processes for example. I’ve been hearing from a lot of different industries. Whether it be ethanol or whether it be mining, it takes far too long, many years, to get permits approved. Now there’s a lot of folks that are upset about that. And I think for them it shouldn’t take 16 years to get a permit to do copper-nickel mining. That’s just ridiculous.”
Wardlow earned a Bachelor of Arts from Georgetown University in 2001 and earned his law degree from Georgetown University Law Center 2004.
Wardlow served as a law clerk for Justice G. Barry Anderson in the Minnesota Supreme Court. In 2010 Wardlow was elected to the Minnesota House to represent District 38B that includes the White Bear Lake area. He served from 2011-2013.
Wardlow’s private sector experience includes working under Robert Lighthizer, who became Trump’s trade representative in 2017, and litigating for Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian nonprofit that focuses on cases related to constitutional protections for what the organization refers to as religious freedom.