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Candidate's view: AG must put aside partisanship

The attorney general of Minnesota performs a very important role, even though many people don’t give much thought to the day-to-day activities of the office. The attorney general is Minnesota’s chief legal officer and provides legal advice to the administrative branch of government, which includes the governor’s office and dozens of agencies, boards, and commissions.

The state of Minnesota elects its attorney general. Getting elected is, by definition, a political process. However, once the attorney general assumes office, he or she must disregard politics and partisanship. Once the oath of office has been administered, the attorney general is neither a liberal nor a conservative, and neither a Democrat nor a Republican. The attorney general represents all the people of Minnesota.

A good lawyer must be willing to tell clients what they don’t want to hear. When I represented clients in private practice, I always took the title “counselor-at-law” very seriously. Providing good counsel can save a lot of time and money for the client. The attorney general’s client is the executive branch. But the governor and other members of the executive branch represent the people.

Unfortunately, Minnesota’s incumbent attorney general, Lori Swanson, has not been willing to put aside partisan politics to stand up for the people.

For example, in 2013, Secretary of State Mark Ritchie put in place an online voter registration system. He did this without the consent of the governor and never presented the issue to the Legislature. There was bipartisan opposition to Ritchie’s action. Even Gov. Mark Dayton had some misgivings. On April 28, 2014, the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported, “Last year, both Democrats and Republicans said that Ritchie, who will step down after this term, may have gone too far by allowing online registration without legislative purview.” What did Swanson do to stop Ritchie? Nothing. In fact, she defended him in court until a judge finally ruled Ritchie had exceeded his authority. An objective, nonpartisan attorney general would have advised Ritchie to back off and go through the legislative process.

As I write this, Minnesota’s economy is being held back by the inaction of the attorney general. Minnesota has an incredible untapped resource on the Iron Range. Gov.  Mark Dayton and Democrats in the Legislature have failed to act. This has delayed permitting that is needed to access this vast state resource, which would create high-paying jobs in Northeastern Minnesota, spurring economic growth statewide. And the federal government is standing in our way through the Environmental Protection Agency. As attorney general, I will work to find ways to challenge the federal government’s failure to help us get our miners to work.

And, of course, as attorney general, I will protect our consumers from predators who exploit our citizens. At the same time, we must work to create a friendly environment for small-business owners and those who keep our economy moving.

I would be honored to have your vote in Tuesday’s primary election and again in the general election on Nov. 4.

Scott Newman of Hutchinson represents District 18 in the Minnesota Senate and is a Republican candidate for attorney general in Tuesday’s primary election.