Attorney General Race Sees Weekend Shakeup

Pelikan with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA). Photo from @mattpelikan Twitter banner.

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The race to potentially succeed incumbent Attorney General Lori Swanson had a few turns this weekend as one state representative dropped out while a DFL activist took his place.

State Rep. John Lesch (D-St. Paul) dropped out of the race Friday after nearly five-and-a-half months on the campaign trail, reports the Pioneer Press. The eight-term lawmaker filed to run in April, but has been dogged by controversy in recent weeks, though he claims the most recent events had no bearing on his decision to exit the race.

In early August, the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board fined Lesch and his campaign committee $20,000 for offenses related to his campaigns for the state House. Allegedly, Lesch transferred $8,600 from his campaign’s accounts to his own personal accounts. The money changed hand in five transactions over the course of four years, and Lesch claimed the transactions were reimbursements for campaign expenses.

In addition, back in April, Lesch was one of just two House members voting against a bill to end life insurance payouts for terrorists, Alpha News reported. He feared the bill gave too much power to insurance agencies, rather than courts, to determine what constituted an act of terrorism.

Meanwhile Democratic activist and attorney Matt Pelikan announced his intent to run for attorney general on Sunday, reports the Pioneer Press. If elected, Pelikan would be Minnesota’s first openly gay attorney general.

Pelikan has clerked for the Minnesota Supreme Court, and served as the Deputy Director of Voter Protection for the Democratic Party of Ohio from July to November of 2016. He describes himself as a “life-long progressive activist” and also worked on the senate campaigns of Sen. Paul Wellstone, and now Gov. Mark Dayton.

“There is no doubt that Minnesotans—and our Minnesota values—are under attack like never before under the Trump administration,” reads Pelikan’s website. “It falls on our state to rise to this challenge. Matt believes that we need a strong, progressive Attorney General now more than ever.”

Other Democrats bidding to succeed Swanson if she does not run again include Rep. Debra Hilstrom and former Rep. Ryan Winkler. On the GOP side there is former Rep. Doug Wardlow and party activist Harry Niska.

Anders Koskinen