Rothman resigns commerce post to run for A.G.

Mike Rothman is stepping down as commissioner of the Minnesota Department Commerce and plans to run for state attorney general.

Rothman announced his intentions Friday in a resignation letter to Gov. Mark Dayton.

“Thank you for the incredible opportunity to serve the people of Minnesota,” Rothman wrote. “You placed great trust in me - and every day, I dedicated myself to fulfilling that trust by doing my very best to improve the lives of Minnesotans. I am very proud of what we have been able to accomplish together.”

Rothman has served a commerce commissioner since 2011. He was among Dayton’s initial cabinet appointments. He previously practiced law and was a partner with the Winthrop & Weinstine firm.

In a separate statement, Rothman said he plans to run for attorney general in 2018. He said his immediate resignation would “ensure that the department and I have no conflicts of interest as I launch a campaign.”

Many Democrats believe that DFL Attorney General Lori Swanson will not seek re-election and will instead run for governor. Rothman will join a DFL field that includes state Rep. Debra Hilstrom and former Rep. Ryan Winkler. Former Rep. Doug Wardlow is currently the only Republican in the race.

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Dayton announced that Jessica Looman will move from her leadership post at the Department of Labor and Industry to replace Rothman. Dayton also thanked Rothman for his service.

“For nearly seven years, Mike Rothman has devoted himself to protecting consumers, improving the lives of Minnesotans, and ensuring fair regulatory environments for Minnesota’s businesses,” Dayton said.

A Republican state legislator was less kind.

Rep. Kelly Fenton, R-Woodbury, pointed to Rothman’s connection to several past controversies, including the financial mismanagement of Community Action of Minneapolis.

"Commissioner Rothman’s tenure was stained by his failure to protect Minnesota consumers and tax dollars,” Fenton said. “His poor judgment is well documented.”