Minnesota voter guide: Where Minnesota attorney general candidates stand on the issues

Three candidates are running in Minnesota's open attorney general race.
Three candidates are running in Minnesota's open attorney general race in the November election: Democrat Keith Ellison, Republican Doug Wardlow and Noah Johnson of the Grassroots-Legal Cannabis Now party.
Jiwon Choi | MPR News

Three men are after Minnesota's open attorney general's office after Lori Swanson decided not to run for re-election.

They are Democrat Keith Ellison, Republican Doug Wardlow and Noah Johnson of the Grassroots-Legal Cannabis Now party.

The state DFL Party hired an attorney to investigate the allegation and is asking local law enforcement to review its findings. as the campaigning continues.

Ellison has also asked the U.S. House Ethics Committee to investigate.

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Update (Oct. 15, 2018): Johnson is now endorsing Ellison in the statewide race, saying he doesn't want to draw votes away from Ellison to the benefit of Republican candidate Wardlow.

Here's where the state attorney general candidates stand on some major issues for the November election:

On President Trump

Ellison: Ellison has long been against the Trump administration. Ellison said the reason he is running for the statewide office is to take on the president in court, saying Trump "has no respect for the rule of law, he wants to do what he wants to do."

Wardlow: Although Wardlow said he would take politics out of the attorney general's office, he has declared himself as a strong supporter of President Trump, saying the president "has delivered on his promises and is making America great again."

Johnson: He appears to oppose the president, calling his Republican opponent Wardlow "a puppet for President Trump's nationalist and unpatriotic agenda." Johnson has expressed his opposition to the Trump administration's new EPA rollback of coal pollution regulations and travel ban on Muslims.

Health care

Ellison: Ellison defends the Affordable Care Act and its coverage for preexisting conditions. He has criticized Republican attorneys suing to repeal it and said the Republicans try to "strip away health care protections that over 2 million Minnesotans rely upon."

Wardlow: Wardlow puts prosecuting illegal practices that may be occurring between insurers and providers as one of his top priorities in the health care issue. He also opposes the Affordable Care Act, saying it's "an unconscionable law" that "eviscerates the structure of our constitutional form of government."

Johnson: Johnson supports universal health care, which he believes is "the only rational system to ensure the health and productivity of our people."


Ellison: Ellison claims pharmaceutical companies have made millions of dollars as the opioid crisis rages and they should be held accountable for their "deceptive and aggressive marketing tactics." He wants to sue big pharmaceutical companies including Purdue Pharma, a manufacturer of opioid OxyContin.

Wardlow: Wardlow has expressed his intention to rebuild the criminal law division in the attorney general's office to tackle several statewide problems such as the opioid crisis. Through the division, he hopes to collaborate with local law enforcement and county attorneys and provide them resources they need to combat the opioid epidemic.

Johnson: Johnson hopes to resolve the opioid epidemic by legalizing recreational marijuana in Minnesota. He says several studies, including the one by Scientific American, have shown that the opioid abuse rate falls in places where marijuana is legal. He wants to sue pharmaceutical companies if he wins.

Workplace unions

Ellison: Ellison says he "will defend every worker's right to collectively bargain for better working conditions, benefits, and incomes for all." Ellison hopes to hold employers accountable if they engage in wage theft.

Wardlow: During his term in the state House, Wardlow supported a constitutional amendment , which would have lifted the requirements that workers join unions and pay dues in union shops.

Johnson: He supports the right to unionize and says it benefits democracy.


Ellison: Ellison has called for immigration reform that provides a pathway to citizenship and permanent protections for DREAMers during his campaign. He also opposes the Trump administration's family separation policy at the border.

Wardlow: He has opposed sanctuary cities in Minnesota and wants local police departments to work with federal law enforcement to enforce the immigration laws, calling sanctuary cities "dangerous."

Johnson: He advocates sanctuary cities in the state, claiming the entire state be "a sanctuary for peaceful immigrants from the fear-mongering and religiously discriminatory policies of the Trump administration."

Gun control

Ellison: Ellison, who is a gun owner, supports universal background checks for gun sales and a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. If elected, he plans to join 17 other states' attorneys general to fight federal legislation that would diminish Minnesota's gun safety measures.

Wardlow: He has expressed his interest in defending the right to keep and bear arms, citing it as a fundamental freedoms.

Johnson: Johnson supports background checks on all gun purchases because he believes the risk to cause injury and death "outweighs any interest in possessing them for personal gratification."

Government performance

Ellison:As a state and national politician, Ellison said he has seen how the government tends to stand with big corporations and the wealthy, which he claims "scam consumers, cheat workers and ignore environmental protections." He wants to enforce the law to hold those in power accountable to enhance the government performance.

Wardlow: Wardlow has argued that Minnesota is overregulated and that most of those regulations are made by unelected bureaucrats. He mentioned the state's buffer law as an example. Under the law, counties and watershed districts can fine landowners up to $500 per parcel if they fail to build the buffers.

Johnson: Johnson seeks to improve government's performance by legalizing recreational marijuana, hoping it would encourage state prosecutors "not to waste public resources on marijuana prosecutions."

Human/sex trafficking

Ellison: Fighting human and sex trafficking is one of Ellison's top priorities in his campaign. He wants to convene a task force with county attorneys, local law enforcement and community representatives and advocates to ensure they have the resources, training, and support they need to resolve the issue.

Wardlow: Similar to his Democrat opponent, Wardlow also plans to fight human and sex trafficking happening by collaborating with state and local law enforcement and county attorneys. He believes establishing the office's criminal law division would build the statewide leadership to prosecute and end the trafficking and make sure that they have the training the local agencies need.

Johnson: Johnson wants to tackle illegal trafficking without unduly punishing victims and discouraging cooperation with law enforcement.

Other issues

Ellison: Ellison's campaign also prioritizes holding student loan providers accountable for high rates and fees, fighting for women's equal pay, defending abortion rights, and protecting elderly and vulnerable adults from fraud and abuse.

Wardlow: One of the main issues Wardlow has focused on during his campaign is taking politics out of the attorney general's office. He also wants to bring more attorneys into the criminal law division to prosecute welfare fraud and protect public safety.

Johnson: Johnson prioritizes decriminalizing recreational marijuana in Minnesota, which he said is "a simple step toward measurably increasing justice" in the state.