Contenders line up for Minn. attorney general race

Published 7:51 am Wednesday, April 19, 2017

ST. PAUL — The race for Minnesota attorney general is already underway, even though the current officeholder hasn’t said if she’ll run for re-election or run for governor.

Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party hasn’t given a timetable on when she’ll make a decision, Minnesota Public Radio reported .

As she decides, the scramble for the attorney general’s office is in full swing. Republican Harry Niska declared his candidacy Monday, and former state Rep. Doug Wardlow, another Republican, is also running.

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Niska, a business litigation attorney from Ramsey, has never held elective office. He said he considers that an asset.

“As I look at the field, I see a number of essentially career politicians looking for another step up on the political ladder,” he said.

DFL Rep. John Lesch, of St. Paul, and former DFL Rep. Ryan Winkler have launched campaigns, contingent on if Swanson moves on from the post.

“You’re going to have to get out there now because you can’t necessarily wait for other decisions. You need to start preparing now,” Lesch said.

Winkler left his seat in the Legislature in 2015 when his family moved to Brussels for career reasons, but he said he plans to be back in Minnesota full-time by June.

Two other Democrats also have expressed interest in running if Swanson doesn’t.

Wardlow said he believed the DFL has had too tight a grip on the attorney general’s office.

“It is time for change,” he said. “I think 44, approximately, years is too long for any single party to hold such an important office.”

It’s actually been longer since a Republican won the attorney general’s race in Minnesota. The last to do so was Doug Head in 1966.