Keith Ellison declares victory in his race for Minnesota Attorney General. With some precincts still reporting results, Ellison looked set to clinch his second term in the position. Credit: Aaron Nesheim | Sahan Journal

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Attorney General Keith Ellison narrowly defeated Republican challenger Jim Schultz by just over 20,000 votes in the race for attorney general. 

Ellison, a DFLer, declared victory Wednesday morning in a campaign news release. 

“This election was tough,” Ellison said in a prepared statement. “Millions of dollars were spent to sow division, hate, and fear. And we overcame it: we were positive, and Minnesotans responded. I am very grateful for this win.”

Schultz, a corporate lawyer and political newcomer, conceded the race Wednesday afternoon in a campaign news release.

“The results are now clear,” Schultz said in a prepared statement, “and I plan to call Attorney General Keith Ellison later today to congratulate him on his reelection.”

With all precincts reporting, Ellison won by 0.8 percent, which is a large enough margin to avoid an automatic recount. When election results in state races are within 0.25 percentage points of each other, an automatic recount is triggered and paid through public funds, according to state statute.

Ellison’s supporters reveled early into the morning at the DFL party at the InterContinental Hotel in downtown St. Paul as they awaited results from all precincts. The race was tight for much of the night, with Ellison leading by a slim margin and neither campaign willing to announce victory or defeat well past midnight.

Ellison took to the stage at the DFL party about 1:45 a.m. Wednesday and addressed a cheering crowd of about 100 supporters. He stopped short of declaring victory.

“They’re almost all counted, and we’re gonna win,” Ellison said of the votes.

Ellison spoke about empathy, compassion and unity, and reiterated a second time that “we will win this election.”

Four years ago, Ellison became the first Black and first Muslim candidate elected statewide in Minnesota history after representing the Minneapolis area in Congress for 12 years. As attorney general, Ellison dubbed himself as “the people’s lawyer” and focused on issues including consumer protections and police reform. 

Schultz ran on a tough-on-crime platform and promised to focus on prosecuting criminals.

The state Attorney General’s Office acts as the state’s top lawyer, representing all state government agencies. It also enforces the state’s consumer protection laws and advocates for residents and small businesses, among other duties. 

Polls suggested a tight race throughout the election season, and attack ads got particularly ugly. One ad from the national Republican Attorneys General Association featured a voiceover from a man purporting to be a criminal explaining inmates’ support for Ellison over images of a woman being carjacked.

Minnesota Department of Corrections officials have said the man in the ad is not a prisoner from Minnesota. The carjacking footage actually came from Florida, and dozens of faith leaders in Minnesota condemned the ad as racist. 

Beyond legally representing the state government, the attorney general’s office typically brings lawsuits in consumer protection and antitrust matters in the name of Minnesota residents. For example, Ellison joined other state attorneys general to sue an opioid maker, which led to a $250 million nationwide settlement. Previous Minnesota attorneys general won consumer protection lawsuits against 3M for environmental damage and tobacco companies for consumer harm. 

Ellison’s term as attorney general came during a tumultuous time in Minnesota, which included the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 murder of George Floyd. Ellison’s office was tasked with legally enforcing Gov. Tim Walz’s executive orders to temporarily shut down businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Ellison led the prosecution of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin and three other officers in the killing of George Floyd, which sparked widespread protests and unrest throughout the Twin Cities and the country. A jury later found Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder.

Ellison also successfully prosecuted former Brooklyn Center police officer Kimberly Potter for first degree manslaughter in the 2021 killing of Daunte Wright. 

Keith Ellison declares victory in his race for Minnesota Attorney General. With some precincts still reporting results, Ellison looked set to clinch his second term in the position. Credit: Aaron Nesheim | Sahan Journal

On the campaign trail, Schultz attacked Ellison for the Potter prosecution, accusing his office of “up-charging” Potter from her initial charges of second-degree manslaughter. Schultz also vowed to vote to pardon Potter if elected. The attorney general sits on the state’s Board of Pardons with the governor and the chief justice of the state supreme court. 

Schultz also criticized Ellison for his public support of a failed Minneapolis charter amendment in 2021 that would have replaced the Minneapolis Police Department with a new public safety department. 

Ellison attacked Schultz for his legal representation of a hedge fund and his role as a board member of a crisis pregnancy center that discourages abortions. He also warned that Schultz would gut the office’s consumer protection division. 

Joey Peters is a reporter for Sahan Journal. He has been a journalist for 15 years. Before joining Sahan Journal, he worked for close to a decade in New Mexico, where his reporting prompted the resignation...