Swanson’s move sets off a chain reaction in Minnesota

Published 7:51 pm Tuesday, June 5, 2018

ST. PAUL — Tuesday was moving day in Minnesota politics, as Attorney General Lori Swanson’s jump to the governor’s race cast big ripples. Swanson’s decision opened a path for U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison to vie for attorney general, and once Ellison decided to leave his reliably Democratic House seat, it was a stampede to fill his seat.

A guide to the day’s events:

What caused all this?

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In a word, Swanson. After she was snubbed for endorsement at the state party convention over the weekend, she opted for a governor’s race she had passed up earlier. All the people who had thought about running for attorney general when Swanson was weighing a bid for governor suddenly had to re-think — and several of them moved quickly.

Who’s in for attorney general?

More like who isn’t. There’s Ellison, the first Muslim elected to Congress. Ellison had what seemed a lifetime ticket in his Minneapolis-area seat, but he said he wanted to be part of the contingent of Democratic attorneys general around the country who have challenged the Trump administration on several fronts.

Mike Hatch, the combative former attorney general who held the job from 1999 until 2007, filed papers to run — but said he might drop out later this week if a candidate he supports runs.

State Rep. Debra Hilstrom was among those who dropped her attorney general bid when Swanson said she was staying put. Now she’s back in. Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman is also in.

All are Democrats, joining little-known attorney Matt Pelikan — the man who dislodged Swanson at the Democrats’ state convention for endorsement.

Also filing Tuesday: 87-year-old Bob Lessard, a former legislator, as a Republican.

How about Congress?

As one Muslim leaves Congress, will another take his place? State Rep. Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American elected to a state legislature, is among those who filed for Ellison’s seat. Just wrapping up her first term, Omar brings a strong base of support to the race and a rising national profile.

Others include former House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher; state Sen. Patricia Torres Ray; state Sen. Bobby Joe Champion, one of just a handful of black lawmakers at the Capitol; and Jamal Abdulahi, a longtime Democratic party activist who is also Somali-American.

Now what?

The primary is Aug. 14, and it was already shaping up to be a bruising one for Democrats even before the attorney general/congressional shuffle began. The party has contested primaries for the biggest prizes, governor and Senate.