DFLers endorse newcomer Matt Pelikan for attorney general over incumbent Lori Swanson

Matt Pelikan accepts the DFL endorsement from delegates at their convention in Rochester on Saturday, June 2. Photo by Briana Bierschbach.

Minnesota Democrats on Saturday endorsed Minneapolis attorney and DFL activist Matt Pelikan for attorney general, an unexpected upset over incumbent DFL Attorney General Lori Swanson.

Pelikan won after a strong showing on the first ballot, when he garnered 47 percent of the vote to Swanson’s 52 percent. After the first ballot, Swanson withdrew from the race for the endorsement. Swanson has already filed to run for a third term as attorney general and could head to a primary but she did not comment after withdrawing from the endorsement race. 

Pelikan was the only candidate to remain in the race for the endorsement against Swanson, who until earlier this year was considering jumping into the race for governor. When Swanson opted to run for another term as attorney general, the DFL field mostly cleared.

Pelikan ran to Swanson’s left, noting a 2010 NRA endorsement of her campaign. He also criticized her role in several high-profile lawsuits, saying she quietly dropped a lawsuit against the Trump administration's travel ban, jumped in too late to a lawsuit against drug companies accused of being responsible for the opioid epidemic, and settled for too little in an environmental lawsuit against 3M, which netted $850 million for the state.

“Progressive leadership means picking the fights that need fighting and sticking it out until the end,” Pelikan said in his speech.

Swanson did not address delegates but instead had a number of supporters approach the podium to nominate her, including former attorney general Mike Hatch, who called her “the greatest attorney general in the nation.” Hatch noted Swanson’s work in taking on policies pushed by President Donald Trump’s administration and criticized Pelikan, saying he has a lack of legal experience.

"You can't sit in the wading pool and think you can swim in the ocean,” Hatch said.

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