MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Republican Doug Wardlow announced Wednesday that he's running again for Minnesota attorney general, stressing a “law and order” platform as he seeks the GOP nomination to challenge Democratic incumbent Keith Ellison, who beat Wardlow by just under 4 percentage points in 2018.
Wardlow is a former state representative who now serves as general counsel for MyPillow, whose founder, Mike Lindell, has spent months spreading misinformation in support of former President Donald Trump's false claims of victory in the presidential race.
Wardlow released a video of himself, using stark black-and-white imagery, as he surveys the damage from unrest that followed last summer's death of George Floyd, a Black man who was in handcuffs when a white Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee against Floyd’s neck for several minutes.
“Keith Ellison's response to the violent riots in Minneapolis was to blame those who risk their lives every day to keep our families safe,” Wardlow said. “That should infuriate you.”
Wardlow also faulted Ellison for taking legal action against businesses that have defied Democratic Gov. Tim Walz's closure restrictions, which were meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus.
Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Chairman Ken Martin countered with a statement calling Wardlow “a right-wing extremist who will do anything for political power," who has “only gotten more extreme and more dangerous.”
Martin particularly slammed Wardlow's work for Lindell, saying he “provides legal advice to a man who wants to use the United States military to stage a coup and forcefully overturn a free and fair election.”
Ellison, a fiery progressive, has been a polarizing figure. But history suggests that Wardlow faces some high hurdles. No Republican has won Minnesota's attorney general's race since Doug Head in 1966. And no GOP candidate has won statewide office in Minnesota since Gov. Tim Pawlenty was reelected in 2006.
Democratic state attorneys general, including Ellison, gained new policymaking importance during Trump's presidency, leading the charge with litigation to block his administration's initiatives on a wide range of fronts including health care, environmental rollbacks and immigration.
That continued a trend seen during Barack Obama's presidency, when Republican attorneys general sought to thwart his agenda, with lawsuits against the Affordable Care Act and his climate change initiatives.
The roles could switch again under President Joe Biden's administration and narrow Democratic congressional majorities as Republicans seek to take advantage of the surge in conservative judicial appointments under Trump.