Voter guide: See Minnesota attorney general candidates' stances

Published: Sept. 28 | Updated: Nov. 7

The two candidates running for Minnesota attorney general have prioritized vastly different issues in the 2022 race. They can’t even agree on the mission of the office.  

Incumbent Keith Ellison, 59, is highlighting abortion rights to Minnesota voters while his Republican opponent Jim Schultz, 37, counters that the election is about reducing crime across the state. 

Schultz, a Harvard-educated lawyer who previously worked in the private sector, believes the AG’s office should enforce the laws on the books, increase the number of criminal attorneys, and refrain from bringing lawsuits against vaping or oil companies like Ellison has.  

To that, Ellison, a former six-term member of Congress who earned his law degree at the University of Minnesota Law School, said Schultz is “missing the lion's share of the job. But I will say that, yeah, public safety is a part of it … but it's by no means the whole thing. 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.” 

Here's a rundown of where the candidates stand: 

Abortion

Ellison: On his campaign website, Ellison stated, “I have fought throughout my term as attorney general for the constitutional right to reproductive health care, including access to abortion care.”  

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He issued a consumer alert in August warning Minnesotans about non-medical “crisis pregnancy centers,” whose purpose he says is to prevent pregnant people from accessing abortions despite abortion being legal in Minnesota. That month Ellison also joined other attorneys general from 20 states and Washington, D.C., challenging Texas’ request in federal court not to comply with a federal law that protects doctors who end a pregnancy to save a patient’s life. 

Schultz: During a GOP primary candidate debate in March, Schultz revealed that he served as a board member of the Minneapolis anti-abortion nonprofit Human Life Alliance. (He remained listed as a board member until this summer, according to the Wayback Machine. His name no longer appears on the website.)  

“I know. We all know that the child in the womb is a human person deserving of legal protection … as Attorney General, I will absolutely do everything I can to ensure the most vulnerable among us, the unborn child, are defended aggressively.” 

Schultz later changed his rhetoric, saying he supports only certain restrictions on abortion, including a ban after 20 weeks of pregnancy. He said he would not pursue further limitations on the procedure. 

In a debate hosted by MPR News in October, Schultz said he continues to support additional restrictions as a personal matter, but he wouldn’t advocate for policy changes or use the office as a platform on the issue. He said that he would enforce Minnesota’s existing abortion law, which bans abortion after viability, except in cases where the life or health of the pregnant person is at risk. The standard of viability is currently believed to be around 24 weeks.

Crime, police and public safety

Ellison: Ellison led the prosecution team that won the conviction of former Minneapolis officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd.

Before Floyd was killed, Ellison led an effort to examine police use of deadly force. He told MPR News “The Commissioner of Public Safety and I convened a working group from the criminal-justice system, philanthropy, academia, and community to determine how to reduce deadly-force encounters with law enforcement because we want everyone involved in encounters with police to get home safe at the end of the day. No other group like it exists anywhere in America. We released 28 recommendations three months before the death of George Floyd, several of which have already been turned into reality.”

He also supported a controversial, failed Minneapolis ballot measure that would have replaced the Minneapolis Police Department and with a new Department of Public Safety. 

“Even though I supported it, I always believed we had to have a well-resourced, well-funded police department. It's a complicated matter, which goes back years and years and requires solutions, not just slogans,” Ellison said in an MPR News debate in October.

Schultz: He has proposed tougher sentences for violent crimes, setting a specific penalty for carjacking (it is currently prosecuted as robbery or armed robbery), and establishing a panel to study violent crime in Minnesota. Additionally, Schultz said he would transfer 30 prosecutors in the office from sections that regulate business over to the criminal division. (For context, most criminal cases are prosecuted at the local or federal level, not by the state attorney general, although the office can help counties that request it. Ellison requested more funding to hire nine criminal attorneys from the Legislature, but it was denied.)  

“The Attorney General’s Office is focused on many other things other than the crime that is plaguing communities," Schultz said. “So we have to have dramatically more criminal attorneys in the Attorney General's Office.” 

In a debate hosted by MPR News in October, Schultz said that Ellison “upcharged” former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter after she fatally shot Daunte Wright last year during a traffic stop. He committed to commute her sentence, if elected. Potter is serving a two-year sentence after a first-degree manslaughter conviction.

Economy and tax policy

Ellison: “It’s my job as Attorney General to help Minnesotans afford their lives through robust consumer protection, and that’s what I’ve done. I’ve stopped price-gouging by big pharmaceutical companies, protected tenants from exploitation by landlords, held private colleges and loan servicers accountable for taking advantage of students, fought wage theft by returning hundreds of thousands of dollars in stolen wages to workers, and more. I will continue to prioritize this work to ensure a fair economy for all,” he told MPR News.

Schultz: “For decades now the Attorney General’s office has been hostile towards Minnesota’s small businesses, and it’s only gotten worse under Keith Ellison,” he said. The Attorney General “has made it his office’s mission to drive Main Street businesses into the ground and out of state. This ends when I am Attorney General. Small and independent businesses are the backbone of our communities and I look forward to being their defender.”

Education

Ellison: “It is my job to protect Minnesotans, including students, teachers, and other school staff. I have done that by cracking down on ghost guns and illegal firearms so that no child or parent has to worry about whether they come home at the end of the day, issuing a binding opinion that public school districts cannot ‘lunch shame’ students by barring them from participating in graduation and other events if they have a school-lunch debt, suing tobacco companies for deceptive marketing, and holding unscrupulous schools and loan-servicing companies accountable when they take advantage of students, including our future teachers,” he told MPR News.

Schultz: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

Environment and climate change

Ellison: “It’s my job as attorney general to protect Minnesotans, including from environmental threats. My top priorities are holding corporations and polluters accountable for harms they’ve caused to Minnesota’s consumers and environment; using the law, policy and advocacy to mitigate the effects of and help Minnesota be resilient to climate change; and supporting Minnesota’s transition to clean energy in a way that is fair to ratepayers and consumers.”

Schultz: “I would end the hostility toward energy production and work collaboratively with all to ensure our state’s environmental safeguards are being followed,” he wrote in an op-ed. “We can be good stewards of our environment while also making sure we aren’t raising the cost of energy for Minnesota families.”

Farming and rural Minnesota

Ellison: “People in Greater Minnesota face particular challenges in affording their lives – that’s why I’ve held Telecommunication companies accountable for deceptive advertising and substandard service in Greater Minnesota, and pushed back against efforts to reduce service to rural communities. I’ve also joined a group of bipartisan attorneys general in calling for a federal investigation of antitrust practices in the beefpacking industry and more federal protections for workers in the meatpacking industry.”

Schultz: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

Guns

Ellison: After the mass shooting at a Uvalde, Texas school, Ellison backed stronger gun safety laws for fighting violent crime. 

“We can’t have a serious conversation about public safety and exclude a conversation about guns,” Ellison said. “It’s time to make our community safer by stopping the ready access to these guns.” 

Schultz: He has not called for tougher gun laws. Instead, “the Legislature should create higher minimum sentences for carjacking offenses and increase penalties for repeat violent offenders,” Schultz said.

Health care

Ellison: “Affordable health care is a fundamental human right. When health care providers and insurance companies don’t treat all Minnesotans fairly, it is my job as Attorney General to ensure we hold them accountable. I sued generic drug manufacturers for price fixing and defended access to free emergency insulin. I have also successfully fought millions in Medicaid fraud, and will continue to enforce the hospital agreement that protects patients against aggressive billing and debt collection practices by Minnesota nonprofit hospitals,” he told MPR News.

Schultz: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

Immigration

Ellison: “Defending the contributions and humanity of our immigrant neighbors is the right thing to do. I successfully sued the Trump administration to oppose their ban on foreign students, defended the rights of children in civil detention, and called for a halt to immigration raids in courthouses. I will continue to protect the due process rights of our immigrant neighbors as long as I am attorney general,” he told MPR News.

Schultz: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

The 2020 election

Ellison: “Protecting the integrity of Minnesota’s elections is one of my top priorities. In 2020, I worked with the Secretary of State to ensure every eligible voter in Minnesota had equal and fair access to the ballot box, and I put out clear guidance for all Minnesotan voters about our rights to vote safely and without intimidation. After the election, I successfully defended against frivolous lawsuits to stop the winners of elections for Congress and the Legislature in Minnesota from taking the seats that they won.”

Schultz: "Joe Biden is the president. He’s the legitimate president. He legitimately won in 2020,” he said in an interview.

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