Republican Attorney General candidate Doug Wardlow is coming under scrutiny for comments made during a private fundraiser this week.
Audio recorded by a DFL staffer obtained by Bring Me The News, which had earlier been sent to MPR, reveals Wardlow promising a mass firing of Democratic attorneys currently working at the AG's Office under Lori Swanson in the event of his election.
"It’s really exciting now to be in a position for the first time in a half century to take this office back," he said.
"We’re going to fire 42 Democratic attorneys right off the bat and get Republican attorneys in there."
This seems to be at odds with Wardlow's previous proclamations that he will take a non-political approach to the AG's office, accusing his opponent Keith Ellison of being too political.
In the wake of the audio's release, his campaign manager Billy Grant told BMTN that politics won't play a role in who Wardlow hires and fires should he be elected, despite what he said at fundraiser.
"As Doug has said on numerous occasions, he will appoint assistants and deputies who believe in the rule of law and the Constitution. There will be no litmus test for party affiliation," he said.
Wardlow has been keen to appear apolitical throughout the campaign, with MinnPost reporting earlier this week that he has not publicly stated many policy positions.
But Wardlow has been questioned over his previous work as an attorney for Alliance Defending Freedom, which is noted for its anti-abortion and anti-same-sex marriage positions, and he is himself a former Minnesota lawmaker, having been elected to House District 38B as a Republican in 2010.
Minnesota DFL Party chairman Ken Martin said it's worrying that Wardlow would take a partisan approach to his staff selections.
"The attorney general’s office should attract the best and the brightest, regardless of political affiliation, because the law doesn’t have a political affiliation," Martin said. "The law should be applied equally to all people and all people should be afforded its protections."
Wardlow has been critical of Ellison for suggesting he would use the AG office to oppose President Donald Trump's policies, with Ellison having said at the beginning of his run for AG that "No one — not even a president — is above the law."
He has also criticized current AG Lori Swanson for joining national lawsuits against the Trump administration.
In a statement released later on Friday, Wardlow accused Ellison and the DFL of a "desperate attack" on his campaign.
"In the entirety of my comments, I clearly stated that the current Attorney General’s Office has been nothing but political. I further stated that I am running to take back the Attorney General’s Office for the cause of the rule of law, the Constitution and for liberty, not for the Republican party.