Concerns about election integrity and crime were at the forefront as Republicans in Minnesota gathered for their state convention on Friday, where they endorsed political newcomer Jim Schultz for the race for attorney general and Kim Crockett to be secretary of state.
The two statewide positions — one for the state’s top attorney, the other for state election oversight — have been locked down by Democrats for years.
Republicans also endorsed attorney Ryan Wilson for the state auditor position, as thousands of delegates gathered in Rochester to try to unite around candidates for top state offices ahead of the August primary.
Saturday will bring the biggest task: picking a gubernatorial candidate from a crowded field.
“The fight against Keith Ellison starts tomorrow,” Schultz said, as he looked ahead to a likely November showdown with the incumbent attorney general, who is seeking a second term.
Schultz called Ellison “radical” and said the increase in violent crime in recent years “is an outrage and a disgrace, and we will hold Keith Ellison accountable.”
Democrats quickly took aim at Schultz, DFL party chairman Ken Martin, calling him “an inexperienced hedge fund lawyer in a Minnesota courtroom.”
“Now more than ever, the people of Minnesota need an experienced attorney general who will protect their rights and their pocketbooks,” Martin said in a statement. “And it’s not Jim Schultz.”
Candidates who gain support can tap into party resources for the primary and general elections. Republicans are hoping to oust a slate of Democratic incumbents, including Ellison, Secretary of State Steve Simon, Auditor Julie Blaha and Gov. Tim Walz.
Several candidates for attorney general have spoken out against the rise in violent crime in the Twin Cities and Walz’s now-repealed COVID-19 restrictions. Schultz, a Harvard Law School graduate and business lawyer, won his endorsement after arguing that he had assembled the best team and built the grassroots support needed to win statewide.
Americans’ rights have been “shredded and burned” in recent years, he said.
“We let the media beat us; we let the Democrats beat us,” Schultz said. “This campaign will not be about defence. It will be attack, attack, attack.”
Schultz narrowly beat Doug Wardlow, a former one-term state legislator who won party endorsement for the job in 2018 but lost to Ellison.
“The political winds have changed, they’re at our backs,” Wardlow said Friday.
After losing to Ellison, Wardlow worked for MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell as the company’s general counsel. He also helps handle Lindell’s defense against defamation lawsuits brought by voting machine companies that Lindell says conspired to steal the 2020 election. Lindell made an appearance at the convention in support of Wardlow.
“I’m here for Doug right now,” Lindell said as she strolled through the Mayo Civic Center. He aired his oft-repeated and long-discredited claims that former President Donald Trump won the 2020 election and that electronic voting machines should be decommissioned.
Some delegates said Tad Jude, who served as a district judge, Hennepin County commissioner and state legislator, was the most experienced choice for the attorney general’s endorsement. But Jude dropped out of the fight after a few rounds of voting and endorsed Schultz. Lynne Torgerson, a Minneapolis attorney who has highlighted her support for Trump, also sought endorsement.
Schultz will run in the August primary against Republican Dennis Smith, a former state lawmaker. Smith bypassed the approval process after calling it an “insider’s game”.
In the race for Secretary of State, Crockett defeated Kelly Jahner-Byrne in a two-way bout for approval.
“We need to return to the civic traditions that bind us together, like voting in person,” Crockett said. “We must eliminate years of hyper-partisan electoral processes.”
Crockett works as a legal policy advisor to the Minnesota Voters Alliance, which has filed several lawsuits against Simon over the state’s election administration. She was suspended from a think tank in 2019 for comments made about Somali Americans for a New York Times article. His comments, which included the remarks “these are not people from Norway”, were widely seen as Islamophobic.
“Kim Crockett is an election conspiracy theorist who is committed to restricting early voting, canceling voting by mail, and making it harder for older Minnesotans and residents of greater Minnesota to vote,” Martin said, the president of the DFL. has been approved.
Jahner-Byrne, an entrepreneur and philanthropist from Woodbury, was seeking the Republican nomination after an unsuccessful run for the Minnesota House in 2020. She had led a campaign for former Minnesota Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, who is now taking her retired as a state senator and the last Republican to be elected secretary of state.
“We need the purest form of voter integrity; we need a voter ID card,” Jahner-Byrne told the convention crowd. His campaign announcement last year included allegations of “lack of management, oversight and obvious insecurities” in Simon’s office.
Simon, citing state and federal assessments, called the 2020 election one of the safest ever. He often points to Minnesota’s top-ranked voter turnout as a clear sign of his high confidence in the state’s electoral system.
The candidates’ comments and Friday’s convention machinations highlighted Republicans’ lingering suspicions about election security and voter confidence in the state and across the country since the 2020 vote. convention delegates fought over their own voting process. Delegates argued over whether to use electronic voting or paper ballots to make their approval decisions.
“If we are who we say we are, then we can trust the process,” said convention attendee Don Raleigh III, who leaned toward electronic ballots. “I don’t think the call for paper ballots is necessary. It will take a very, very long time.”
Some Republicans have argued for the electronic method to continue, fearing they will run out of time to make a choice in the gubernatorial race, while opponents of the electronic system have immersed themselves in conspiratorial rhetoric. The attempt to switch to paper ballots failed.
While the other endorsement battles were contested, Wilson was the only candidate seeking GOP endorsement for the listener to take on Blaha in November. Wilson, a Maple Grove attorney, is the former CEO and co-founder of a company that focused on clinical trials of medical devices.
“If we can come together, if we can find candidates willing to fight for Minnesota, our way of life, then we will win,” Wilson said.
Writer Stephen Montemayor contributed to this report.
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