Democrats win attorney general, secretary of state, auditor races

(AP) A protege of outgoing Attorney General Mike Hatch defeated a tough-on-crime state legislator in Minnesota's race for the state's top lawyer Tuesday, and Democrats swept Republicans out of the secretary of state and auditor's offices.

With 86 percent of precincts reporting, DFLer Lori Swanson, the state's solicitor general, held a 12-point lead over the GOP candidate, state Rep. Jeff Johnson. And in the other constitutional officer races, Mark Ritchie ousted Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer and former state Rep. Rebecca Otto defeated State Auditor Pat Anderson.

Swanson was a late entry into the attorney general's race after the party's endorsed candidate, Rep. Matt Entenza, abruptly dropped out in July. By contrast, Johnson had been running since February 2005.

Given that Swanson helped run the attorney general's office as solicitor general and as deputy attorney general before that, she wasn't planning major changes. She said health care and predatory lending will be among her priorities.

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

"I think Mike Hatch has been a great attorney general for the state of Minnesota," she said. "He's always stood up for people when they need a helping hand. I would hope that I could also be an attorney general who can stand up for the average person and give them a fair shake."

Swanson's victory will make her the state's first female attorney general. Johnson had hoped to become the first Republican to win the office in 40 years. John James of the Independence Party was also running.

In the other constitutional officer races:

-Ritchie, who founded a nonprofit that promotes sustainable development, held a 5-point lead over Kiffmeyer, who was pursuing a third term as the state's chief elections officer. Joel Spoonheim of the Independence Party was the other major-party candidate.

"We need to be a beacon for democracy," Ritchie told cheering supporters early Wednesday. "We need to show others in the country what it means to invite people in, and for people to know their votes were counted and they were counted properly. We've got major elections coming in '08, in 2010. Every person needs to know that their vote is safe and secure."

-Otto defeated Anderson, who was seeking a second term as the state's chief financial watchdog. Otto had an 11-point lead. Lucy Gerold was the Independence Party candidate.