Republican Doug Wardlow has announced he will once again run to become Minnesota's Attorney General in 2022.
Wardlow, who lost by 4 percentage points to Keith Ellison in what was the closest statewide race in 2018, is hoping to end a record that has seen Republicans win only one statewide race out of 27 in Minnesota since 2006.
His announcement Wednesday focuses little on his own plans should he become Attorney General, instead predominantly being an attack on Ellison, evoking the overarching theme of "law and order" and focusing predominantly on the 2020 Minneapolis riots, which was a common talking point for Republicans running this past November.
With the video showing Wardlow walking in front of riot-damaged businesses, he references the spikes in crime the Twin Cities had in 2020, which rose significantly following George Floyd's death, though cities across the country have seen similar spikes during a COVID-19 pandemic that has brought widespread unemployment.
He criticizes Ellison for "failing to stop" the riots that followed Floyd's death in May, and "should have made sure those responsible for the riots should have been identified, and prosecuted." Both of these things fall outside of the Attorney General's jurisdiction, though Ellison's office is leading the prosecution of the four officers charged in Floyd's death at the request of Floyd's family and Black community activists.
Hundreds of people were arrested during the May civil unrest, with Minnesota's U.S. Attorney Erica MacDonald filing federal charges against multiple people suspected of causing some of the worst damage.
In a statement to Axios, Wardlow's campaign defended the criticism of Ellison's response during the riots, saying if Wardlow had been the AG he would have "used his platform to call for an end to violence and assist local and federal prosecutors."
Ellison did use his platform to call for an end to the violence in May.
Another area Wardlow focuses on that Ellison's office actually does have jurisdiction is the action taken against restaurants and bars that remained open in defiance of Gov. Tim Walz's temporary shutdowns to prevent the spread of COVID-19, with Wardlow criticizing him for filing lawsuits against these businesses requiring them to close.
Despite the Attorney General being a state position, Wardlow's video links Ellison to U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar, a fellow Muslim who replaced him as the 5th District representative, saying "together they are leading the national conversation on the Defund the Police movement."
This is untrue. Ellison has previously stated that he believes in the need for police reform, but has declined to back calls to "Defund the Police." In fact, he recently endorsed Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey in his run for re-election, with Frey opposing efforts by Minneapolis City Council to replace MPD with a new public safety department.
"I will stand with and defend our law enforcement, not defund them," Wardlow says.
Wardlow also calls Ellison "a supporter of the domestic terror organization Antifa." While Ellison has previously identified as anti-fascist and a picture of him holding a book called "The Antifa Handbook" has regularly been used in attacks against him, "Antifa" has not been designated as a terror organization despite efforts by the GOP to do so, nor is it an organization.
The 2018 race for Attorney General was an ugly affair, with Ellison the subject of allegations of domestic abuse by a former partner – allegations that were found to be unsubstantiated following an investigation by an attorney launched at the request of the DFL.
Meanwhile Wardlow, an Eagan native who graduated cum laude from Georgetown Law Center and previously worked for the conservative Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom, was criticized for releasing mailers denounced as Islamaphobic and anti-gay marriage. He was also criticized for taking donations from the owners behind Globe University, which was sued for fraud by the state.
Wardlow is also an attorney for MyPillow, the Chaska-based company owned by Mike Lindell, a staunch supporter of former President Donald Trump who has come under fire for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election result.
The Minnesota DFL used this to attack Wardlow in response to his campaign launch, saying he "provides legal advice to a man who wants to use the United States military to stage a coup and forcefully overturn a free and fair election."