Checking in on the Keith Ellison-Doug Wardlow attorney general race

First it was Ellison, now Wardlow is coming under increasing scrutiny.
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Keith Ellison Doug Wardlow

One of the most contentious races in this year's Minnesota elections concerns the position of Attorney General.

A Democrat has held the office for 47 years now, but there is an increasing feeling among Minnesota Republicans that this could be the year they flip it red.

A KSTP/Survey USA poll released Sunday had DFLer Keith Ellison and GOPer Doug Wardlow tied neck and neck at 41 percent each, with a 4.9 percent margin of error.

Having an impact on Ellison's popularity is the allegation of domestic abuse made by his ex-girlfriend, Karen Monahan, which Ellison has denied taking place.

Forty percent of those surveyed by KSTP said the allegation was a "factor" in if they would vote for Ellison, with 39 percent saying they're not and 21 percent unsure.

But while the accusation will likely continue to dog Ellison's election campaign, increasing scrutiny has now being placed on Wardlow and his career as an attorney.

Wardlow, a native of Eagan, is a former litigator for the Alliance Defending Freedom, which describes itself as a legal advocacy group fighting for the freedom of religion and speech, and is noted for its anti-abortion and anti-same-sex marriage positions.

But the group has also been labeled a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which says it has homophobic and transphobic policies, including by fighting for "religious liberty" laws that allows business owners to deny service to LGBTQ people.

Wardlow's past association with the ADF is proving a recurring theme among Democrats opposing his election, in a state where same-sex marriage is legal and its biggest metro area has a large LGBTQ community.

The candidate was quizzed about this by FOX 9 on Sunday, and stood by his association with the ADF, saying the Southern Poverty Law Center mischaracterizes the work of the ADF and says the claim it's a hate group has been "completely discredited."

"I stand by the beliefs of the arguments I made with the Alliance Defending Freedom because I was fighting for free thought, free religion and free speech and those things are not controversial," he said. 

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When asked whether he would look to make changes to, for example, rules regarding bathrooms for transgender students in Minnesota schools, Wardlow said that's a matter for the legislature, and he would only be concerned with enforcing the law as AG.

"I'm proud of the work I did there fighting for free thought, free speech and free religion," he said. "It's a respected Supreme Court advocate." 

The ADF has also been an opponent of aspects of the Affordable Care Act, particularly when it comes to requiring health insurance cover birth control for women, which it argues goes against the religious freedom of employers.

During his Sunday interview, Wardlow re-iterated his opposition to so-called "sanctuary city" policies when it comes to illegal immigration, saying he would ensure Minnesota's cities would comply with federal laws.

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