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A popular stop for candidates: Trio of attorney general candidates visit Bemidji

BEMIDJI—A trio of DFL candidates hoping to be Minnesota's next attorney general visited Bemidji in the past week.

Minneapolis lawyer and activist Matt Pelikan and former state Commissioner of Commerce Mike Rothman stopped by the annual Bemidji Jaycees Water Carnival in the past few days, while U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison came to Bemidji on a tour of northern Minnesota communities Thursday.

The three candidates, along with others from both major parties, are hoping to succeed three-term Attorney General Lori Swanson, who's running for governor this year.

Ellison, who also served two terms in the Minnesota House of Representatives and ran a civil rights, employment and criminal defense law practice in Minneapolis, said a main reason for seeking the office is its importance for helping citizens.

"State attorney generals are on the forefront of protecting Americans every day," Ellison said. "Particularly in this era, when we have a federal administration separating families."

If elected, Ellison said he would focus on protecting individual rights on a number of issues.

"We're going to make sure people keep the money that they earn. I'll be a strong advocate for consumer justice. That means stopping consumer theft and fraud. That also means looking out for workers," Ellison said. "The second thing is protecting people's rights as citizens and join other attorney generals in opposing the separation executive orders that the Trump Administration is pursing."

Pelikan, who received the party's endorsement earlier this year, is also focused on protecting citizens in a number of ways. Bringing experience from working for the Minnesota Supreme Court and clerking for Justices Paul Anderson and David Lillehaug, Pelikan told the Pioneer he's running for the office to make an impact.

In an interview, Pelikan said he would fight for economic opportunity if elected and would stand up for both workers and consumers. Additionally, Pelikan said he would work on enforcing antitrust laws and common sense gun safety.

Rothman, who was appointed as commissioner of commerce in 2011 by Gov. Mark Dayton, said his experience will give him an advantage in protecting Minnesotans.

"The attorney general's office has historically been based on consumer protection, and my campaign is about being ready to protect Minnesotans on Day 1," Rothman said. "Having been the Commissioner of Commerce for seven and a half years, I have experience as the state's consumer watchdog."

If Rothman were to earn the nomination and win in November, he said he would focus on consumer protection, especially for seniors and veterans, along with Minnesota's environment. Additionally, Rothman said he would launch an effort to take on opioid companies, if elected.

Other candidates on the DFL side for attorney general include:

• Former Ramsey County Attorney and Washington County Attorney Tom Foley.

• Prosecutor and District 40B Rep. Debra Hillstrom.

Republican candidates, meanwhile, are:

• Litigation attorney and former District 38B Rep. Doug Wardlow.

• Former District 3 Sen. Robert Lessard.

• Sharon Anderson, a candidate who previously ran for the Republican nomination for attorney general in 2010.

Noah Johnson, a Minneapolis lawyer, has also filed in the election, running as a Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis candidate.

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

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