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Candidate's View: No one above the law — or below its protection

My mom grew up on public assistance and my dad dropped out of school in the eighth grade. The only reason they made it out of poverty was because of a good union job and hard work.

When I was young, my dad was a heavy-equipment operator, a 49er. He worked on the roads in Duluth. Over the summer, our family would travel with my dad to his jobs. We lived out of the back of a pickup camper by Canal Park. It was this strong union job that was the path out of poverty.

I was the first in my family to graduate with a four-year degree. I have served in the Minnesota House of Representatives since 2001. I have served as the DFL deputy minority leader and as chairwoman of the House Judiciary Committee. When I first got elected to the Minnesota House, Rep. Mary Murphy of Hermantown was the lead on my committee. She made us each share one thing in our life we wished we had done. I stated that I wished I had gone to law school. Everyday Murphy pushed and encouraged me. She would ask me, "What have you done today to become a lawyer?" While serving, I put myself through law school at William Mitchell College of Law. Mary Murphy is the reason I am a lawyer today.

After law school, I worked as prosecutor for the Anoka County Attorney's Office. I fought to protect the public and victims of crime from those who steal from vulnerable adults, commit domestic violence, and sell illegal firearms. I have argued a criminal case before the Minnesota Supreme Court and have trained officers on how to investigate elder abuse, fraud, and financial exploitation.

Two of my proudest moments as a legislator were taking on payday lenders who targeted veterans and vulnerable adults.

Payday lenders would get veterans to sign over their benefits and give them a little bit of money up front, charging outrageous interest. I took on payday lenders, changed the law, and stopped the practice.

In 2009, I passed a law that made it easier to prosecute cases of financial exploitation of vulnerable adults, and I created a toll-free number to call to report abuse, neglect, and financial exploitation. Then I went to the courtroom and prosecuted those cases. Having written the law and defended it, I have a unique perspective.

Today, I am running to be Minnesota's next attorney general. I'm committed to defending Minnesotans against pharmaceutical companies, fighting for fair wages and secure retirements, and keeping seniors and veterans safe from exploitation. In fighting for these values, I have earned the trust of the Minnesota Professional Fire Fighters, Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, Minnesota Association of Professional Employees, Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen, Teamsters Joint Council 32, Brotherhood of Maintenance of Way Employes Division, International Union of Operating Engineers, and Women Winning.

When Minnesotans call the Attorney General's Office, most times their issues do not rise to the level of national attention but may be the most important issues in their lives. It could be about their job, their housing, debt collection, or a refusal by their insurance company to pay a bill.

No one is too big to be above the law, and no one is too small to be below its protection. This principle is why I am running to be Minnesota's attorney general. I ask for your vote on Tuesday in the DFL primary.

Debra Hilstrom of Brooklyn Center is one of five DFL candidates for Minnesota attorney general. One will advance from Tuesday’s primary to Election Day on Nov. 6.