Jim Schultz on winning GOP nomination for Attorney General

Minnesota GOP Convention
GOP attorney general candidate Jim Schultz speaks during the first day of the Minnesota State Republican Convention, May 13, 2022, at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester, Minn.
Glen Stubbe/Star Tribune via AP File

In the Republican race for attorney general, private attorney Jim Schultz rode the GOP endorsement to victory over the party’s 2018 nominee, former state Rep. Doug Wardlow. Schultz will take on sitting DFL Attorney General Keith Ellison in November.

The attorney general’s election could be one of the fiercest and most expensive Minnesota has seen, with Republicans sensing opportunity around an office they haven’t held in 50 years.

Schultz talked to political editor Mike Mulcahy the day after his primary win.

Use the audio player above to listen to the full conversation.

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Audio transcript

MIKE MULCAHY: Joining me now is a republican nominee for Minnesota attorney general, Jim Schultz. Jim Schultz, thanks for coming on.

JIM SCHULTZ: Hi.

MIKE MULCAHY: Congratulations on winning your primary yesterday.

JIM SCHULTZ: Thank you very much, Mike. And it's great to be with you again.

MIKE MULCAHY: You had really the one serious primary challenge statewide. Why do you think republican voters chose you over Doug Wardlow?

JIM SCHULTZ: Well, you know, I think we worked incredibly hard, Mike. You know, I put on 8,000 miles over the past five weeks alone. And I think we just delivered a message that republican voters, and frankly all voters in Minnesota, can respond to. That is, that the current crime in Minnesota is unacceptable, that the policies embraced by our current attorney general's office are reckless, irresponsible-- the defund the police policies that Keith Ellison has gotten behind. And I think Minnesota republicans and otherwise want an alternative to Keith Ellison that could win. And I think that's what we present.

MIKE MULCAHY: We just heard Keith Ellison say that if you think the role of the attorney general's office is to fight crime, you're either wrong or you're not being honest with people. How do you respond to that?

JIM SCHULTZ: Yeah, you know, I heard him say that. I think, in one way, it's true. In one way, it's true in that the office that Keith Ellison has run, it's entirely unfocused on crime. In the past, the attorney general's office has in fact been a huge support for county prosecutors around the state to aggressively prosecute crime. Now in this current moment, there's only three criminal attorneys left in an office of 150 attorneys or so. And so he's exactly right. Right now, the attorney general's office almost does nothing about crime throughout the state.

They occasionally support a prosecution out there. I heard him say there was 40 or so over a 3 and 1/2 year period. I mean, this is not significant work being done. What we do need to do is have an attorney general's office adequately staffed and focused on aggressively prosecuting crime, ending the revolving door that is leading to such extraordinary crime in the metro and, frankly, in greater Minnesota as well. And so we absolutely have to have that in a massive part of the attorney general's office in Minnesota. And sadly, it's not right now.

MIKE MULCAHY: So would you take the focus off consumer protection and corporate issues and move it to a focus on crime?

JIM SCHULTZ: So what we will do is deal with significant wrongdoing by corporations, by businesses, and otherwise. That is, we will pursue them aggressively where there is significant wrongdoing. What we won't do, and frankly sometimes has been the case in this attorney--

[AUDIO OUT]

--is really just harassment of Minnesota businesses that are engaged in fundamentally lawful activity. But oftentimes, the attorney general's office is headline seeking or is trying to, frankly, extract money from businesses and get a get a nice judgment. That's what we won't do. What we'll do is pursue significant wrongdoing. And we'll get the convictions we need. But we will reallocate resources to the current challenge.

It's like a business. You know, when a business encounters new challenges, resources have to be reallocated. And the attorney general's office right now isn't responding to the significant challenge that Minnesota faces going forward, that is, the threat of violent crime and other crime throughout our state. And so we do have to reallocate resources to ensure that we have an adequate number and adequate resources for our criminal prosecutors in that office.

MIKE MULCAHY: You don't have a legal record in the criminal justice area. How do you assure voters that you're the one who can get this job done?

JIM SCHULTZ: Yes, well, I mean, Keith Ellison, of course, spent many years in congress. And I think his law license lapsed before he stepped into the attorney general's office. So you know, I have an incredibly broad legal background, probably the broadest of anybody in this race. I don't have a criminal law background. What I do have is a significant private sector experience of managing people, leading teams, setting a vision, setting priorities. And that's what I'll bring to the office.

This office needs to be fundamentally restructured from its current composition. And I have the background and drive to do that. And what we'll have to do is bring in dozens of criminal prosecutors to rebuild that criminal division, as I alluded to earlier. And we'll bring in the talent to do just that. It's like any CEO, right? The CEO doesn't have every skill set that's out there, but he's got to hire for them and be able to recruit for them.

MIKE MULCAHY: You have said that the Attorney General Keith Ellison should appeal that judge's decision that tossed out the restrictions on abortion. He says he spent a long time fighting it, and he didn't think taxpayer money would be well spent by appealing that. Why do you think there would be a different outcome if you appealed it?

JIM SCHULTZ: Well, yeah, I'd say a few things. I mean, ultimately, the attorney general's office has a duty to appeal That. I mean, this decision was a quintessential judicial activism. I mean, these are commonsense, bipartisan statutes that were passed, as I say, on a bipartisan basis, have withstood the test of time, things like parental notification. I mean, this is something-- these are things that like 80% of Minnesotans support.

And the idea that the right to privacy somehow precludes parental notification, that's a completely unserious legal conclusion. And the appeals court almost certainly would have struck it down. And we're not talking about indefinite appeals here. We're simply saying that what he should have done is do his basic duty of making the appeal here. And this isn't dramatic legal resources that are being expended.

It's just simply something that he must do as part of his duty under Minnesota law. And he's not doing it, despite his claims to the contrary, because he is-- he lets his own personal viewpoints on many things get in the way of his job of enforcing and defending Minnesota law.

MIKE MULCAHY: And you do oppose abortion, so would your decision be political on this?

JIM SCHULTZ: Well, it absolutely would not. And I've been very clear on this. You know, fundamentally, the role of the attorney general's office is to be apolitical. It has to be an apolitical attorney general's office. Now, yeah, you know, I'm pro-life. And I've said, like-- and I don't see why we can't have a limit on abortion following 20 weeks. It seems like that's something like 70% of Minnesotans would support.

That said, my role isn't as a legislator. And frankly, in this attorney general's office and otherwise, we've got an office that is far too political, far too involved in kind of the day-to-day partisan politics. What we need to do is have an attorney general's office that gets back to basics, enforces Minnesota law, defends Minnesota law, ensures that criminals are adequately prosecuted around our state, and that's what I'll do.

And you know, I've been very open. And I got criticism from this from my own party in the primary. I've been very open that I'm not going to use the attorney general's office in Minnesota to seek some legislative changes on abortion.

MIKE MULCAHY: Your primary opponent, Doug Wardlow, said that local officials should just ignore that Ramsey County judge's ruling. Should they?

JIM SCHULTZ: I did see him say that. I don't know. I'm not familiar with the basis on which they could do so. And you know, it's certainly not something I'm focused on. And as you can tell, what I'm focused on is crime. And you know, I am heartened that there's a county prosecutor who was going to bring the appeal to try to intervene in this case, and we could pick up the case when I'm sworn in. But in any event, fundamentally what I'm focused on here is dealing with the crime, the crime issues in our state that are really just crippling Minnesota.

MIKE MULCAHY: And so how are you going to win this race in November? How are you going to be the first republican elected to this office in decades?

JIM SCHULTZ: Well, we're on track to do just that. The polling reflects that, both public and private. We are leading in this race right now. And we're going to make sure that we're leading come November. We have to win for the future of our state. We have an incredibly reckless attorney general right now, and we have to turn it around. And so we're going to work harder. We have worked harder to date than anybody in the race, and we're going to continue to do that.

And we're going to speak to Minnesotan's real concerns. And that is Minnesotans are incredibly frustrated, whether they be in north Minneapolis, you know, with kids walking down the street to school getting shot, or a suburban mom getting carjacked while she's going to get groceries, or folks in greater Minnesota who feel like the drug problems are not being adequately prosecuted because, frankly, county prosecutors are often stretched thin.

And so we need to deal with those fundamental issues that everyone is entitled to. Everyone is entitled to safety. And so we're going to be delivering that message every day of the week. I've been in the private sector all my career, not a politician. I stepped into this race because I felt like Minnesotans deserve to be better protected than they currently are. They deserve to have crime prosecuted.

They deserve to have justice done. And that's what we're going to speak to. And that's what we'll ultimately deliver when I'm when I'm sworn in.

MIKE MULCAHY: Jim Schultz, the republican nominee for Minnesota attorney general. Thanks so much for coming on today. I hope you'll come on again as we get closer to the election.

JIM SCHULTZ: Thank you very much, Mike. I appreciate it.

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