Minnesota attorney general candidate talks farmers, civil rights, police

Published 2:29 pm Sunday, August 5, 2018

Candidate for Minnesota Attorney General Matt Pelikan said he wants to defend the public against predatory practices.

“We have to get a fair economy for folks,” he said Wednesday in a visit to the Tribune office. “We have to work for equal opportunity and good opportunity for every community in Minnesota. The attorney general needs to be on the front lines defending consumers, standing up for employees, and enforcing our wage and benefit laws.”

To Pelikan, “The concentration of economic and political power in too few hands is the biggest problem facing us.”

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He said communities have lost leverage with health care providers because of the extensive amount of health care mergers, causing rural areas to lose services.

“We want to make sure that there’s enough balance within our economy in these sectors so that communities like Albert Lea can continue to have a seat at the table,” Pelikan said.

He said though he opposes Mayo Clinic Health System’s decision to transition most inpatient services from Albert Lea to Austin as a private citizen, he does not want to take a strong public stance to avoid prejudicing the issue if he is elected. He said he will defer to professionals in his office for his legal approach.

A DFLer, Pelikan attended St. Olaf College and served as editor in chief of the Minnesota Law Review while in law school at the University of Minnesota. 

After law school, Pelikan clerked for Minnesota Supreme Court justices Paul H. Anderson and David L. Lillehaug.

He cited his experience advocating for progressive causes, including leading the College Democrats at St. Olaf, organizing against the Iraq War and working for former Democratic U.S. senators Paul Wellstone and Mark Dayton.

Pelikan said he recruited and retained 3,000 volunteer lawyers to fight against voter suppression in Ohio before the 2016 presidential election.

“In 2016, I knew I had to join the fight against Trump, so I quit my job, put everything I owned in storage and moved to Ohio,” he said.

As a general practice lawyer, Pelikan focuses on consumer issues, civil cases for Minnesota companies and pro bono work.

Pelikan said he supports buffer laws instituted by Gov. Mark Dayton’s administration.

“We have to stand with farmers,” Pelikan said. “A lot of these issues, there has to be a balance between protecting groundwater, protecting communities — especially in southern Minnesota. The geology is different. And a lot of your terrain — the soil is softer.

“You really need to be careful about what can seep in from agriculture, as well as some of the mining and extraction projects.”

Pelikan said he is committed to women’s reproductive rights and is pro-choice. He said he supports refugees and immigrant communities and expressed support for Black Lives Matter.

Pelikan said changes in police tactics are needed after the shooting of Thurman Blevins on June 23 by Minneapolis police officers drew protests.

“There is no crime for which the punishment is summary execution,” he said. “It is a very difficult situation for our officers — I understand that. I respect the service they’re doing, but I think we need to shift the balance towards protecting life and the civil rights of Minnesotans.”

Pelikan called the issue “a crisis political leaders need to take the lead in solving.” He said too many black men are killed by police, and their lives and freedom “are treated too cheaply.”

To Pelikan, bias in criminal prosecution and policing needs to be eliminated.

He said he is the only attorney general candidate who has said no to Polymet and the large Enbridge 3 pipeline.

“Extraction, fossil fuels are the way of the past, and they will not promote a sustainable economic future for Minnesota,” Pelikan said. “And they will have unacceptable risks to our environmental integrity.”

About Sam Wilmes

Sam Wilmes covers crime, courts and government for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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