Poll: Minnesota AG candidates locked in tight race

A side by side of two men
Jim Schultz, left, and Keith Ellison are running for Attorney General in Minnesota. The two are in a statistical dead heat in a new Minnesota Poll.
Courtesy photos

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and his Republican challenger Jim Schultz are neck-and-neck in a new MPR News/Star Tribune/KARE 11 poll.

The statewide poll of 800 registered voters conducted between Sept. 12 and 14 by Mason-Dixon Polling shows Ellison, the DFL incumbent, with 46 percent support. Meanwhile, nearly 45 percent of respondents chose Schultz, and another nearly 9 percent were undecided. 

The results are within the poll’s plus-or-minus 3.5 percentage point margin of error, with about seven weeks left until Election Day.

The poll also found that Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon held a more comfortable lead, nearly eight percentage points over Kim Crockett, the Republican running to unseat him.

In that face-off, Simon picked up nearly 48 percent support, while 40 percent backed Crockett. The remaining 12 percent were undecided. 

Nadine Garcia, a nurse and mother of two from Crystal, backed Ellison in the poll. And she said she planned to vote for him because he did a good job working to protect public safety and abortion rights.

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“I want Minnesota to be a safe place for everyone. I fear a lot of things that could happen if Republicans took control,” Garcia said. 

Scott Ferguson, a 63-year-old retiree from the North Branch area, plans to vote against Ellison. Ferguson said he didn’t appreciate Ellison’s support for an effort to replace the Minneapolis police force with a public safety department.

“He’s just a big windbag,” Ferguson said. “I just don't like the things he's been doing up there and that's a problem because the people in the Twin Cities they’ve got the majority of the vote, right, so they pretty much get whoever they want.”

Ellison found most of his support in Hennepin and Ramsey Counties, with about two thirds of voters there backing his campaign. Majorities in all other areas of the state, meanwhile, said they preferred Schultz.

A majority of female voters — 54 percent — said they preferred Ellison in the contest, while 37 percent backed Shultz. Among male voters, more than 53 percent picked Schultz, while 38 percent liked Ellison. 

So far, the campaign in the attorney general’s race has centered on the issues of violent crime and abortion access in Minnesota, two of the issues found to be most critical to voters.

Schultz has criticized Ellison for his position supporting the unsuccessful 2021 Minneapolis ballot measure. He also said the office should do more to combat violent crime.

“Right now, we have to ensure that we deal with priority number one, and that's making sure that Minnesotans are safe. And right now we have an attorney general's office that’s focused on these far-left pet causes and not focused on keeping Minnesotans safe and making sure that criminals are held accountable for their actions,” Schultz told MPR News in an interview earlier this month.

Schultz said he would shift dozens of prosecutors who work on consumer issues in the AG’s office to refocus on violent crime. Ellison has repeatedly asked lawmakers for new funding to bulk up his team that backs up county attorneys with criminal cases. But GOP lawmakers have blocked the proposals.

Prosecuting violent criminal offenses is just one part of the attorney general’s role, Ellison said. But there are other responsibilities that he attends to as AG.

“He's missing the lion's share of the job. And I will say that, yeah, public safety is a part of it. It's not, but it's by no means the whole thing,” Ellison said. “And we would miss-serve and undermine the welfare of the people of this state if we did not protect the markets and protect consumers.”

In his early campaign stops, Ellison has voiced his support for continued abortion access in Minnesota and said that Schultz would seek to curb access. Schultz has said he would have appealed a Ramsey County judge’s ruling that blocked several restrictions on abortion after the judge deemed them unconstitutional.

Ellison defended the laws in court, saying it was his duty to fight to keep the laws. But he didn’t appeal the ruling. He also said he personally opposed the laws and would have voted against them if he was in the Legislature.

A majority of Minnesota voters also expressed confidence that the 2022 election would be conducted fairly. Among those polled, 56 percent said they had a high amount of confidence in the elections and another 27 percent said they had a moderate amount of confidence.

Meanwhile, 13 percent of those surveyed said they did not have much confidence in the election and another two percent said they had none at all.

The results come after former President Donald Trump has attempted to stir skepticism about the results of the 2020 election, arguing without evidence that it was stolen. 

MPR News reporters Brian Bakst and Mark Zdechlik contributed to this report.

For additional findings from the September MPR News/Star Tribune/KARE 11 Minnesota Poll, including notes about methodology and sample characteristics, visit the APM Research Lab methodology page here.

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