The coveted Spotty (tm) - graphic by Tild
by Steve Timmer
Nov 2, 2022, 11:00 AM

Two perspectives earn two Spotty awards

Two op-ed pieces, one by a rural (Northfield) legislator and pastor, and the other by criminal lawyer professors at the three law schools in Minnesota, win Spotty™ awards for their contributions to the to the discourse about the attorney general’s race in Minnesota. I commend them both to you.

First, DFL House member Todd Lippert wrote a commentary in the Star Tribune titled Resist fear, vote for Keith Ellison. Here are a few observations from Rep. Lippert;

In the race for Minnesota attorney general, we’re being served an extra helping of fear and division politics. The fear mongering and scare tactics being used against Attorney General Keith Ellison are desperate and ugly, and they are being funded by the same large corporations that Ellison as attorney general has been holding accountable.

The disingenuous ads flooding our state supporting Ellison’s opponent, hedge fund lawyer Jim Schultz, drip with dog-whistle racism and play on people’s fears.

The strategy is clear: distract and divide. Suggest that Ellison, as an African American and Muslim, isn’t “one of us,” and by association, that other African Americans and Muslims aren’t really Minnesotans either.

I’ve observed that when Jim Schultz starts to speak, dogs all over Minnesota begin to howl.

As a white person from rural Minnesota, it’s frustrating to know these dog whistles are created in many ways for people in my communities. Rather than helping us do the needed work of building bridges across race, they are designed to turn neighbors into enemies, reducing our ability to act together and be powerful together.

Another perfectly correct observation. Jim Schultz seems especially free about talking about crime in the cities when he isn’t in them. Keith Ellison enjoys the support of about two thirds of the voters in the core cities.

It’s not surprising that big corporations that profit from our problems are trying to keep us divided. Their support for someone like Schultz for attorney general shows us what is really happening in this race. Corporations believe he will protect them, when the purpose of the attorney general is to protect the people of Minnesota. And if scorched-earth politics is what is needed to get their guy elected, so be it.

One of the ironies is that Jim Schultz started studying to be a priest in the Catholic church. Readers will excuse me if I call him a bit of a fallen angel.

The second Spotty™ winner is an opinion piece by Professors Perry Moriearty, Bradford Colbert, and Mark Osler. They bring an informed perspective about what the attorney can, and cannot do, and what the real scope of the job is. It isn’t what Jim Schultz thinks it is, viz.:

Schultz has repeatedly said that his first priority as Minnesota Attorney General will be to “prosecute criminals” and vows a dramatic expansion of the AG’s criminal division. Schultz blames Minnesota’s current AG Keith Ellison for not doing more to fight crime during his first term.

But here is the simple truth: Minnesota’s AG does not have this power. In Minnesota, the power to prosecute felonies lies with the State’s 87 county attorneys, who are elected by the citizens of their counties. Minnesota law is unambiguous on this point.

The AG cannot just barge in, unbidden, and take over criminal prosecution.

So, what are Schultz’s claims really about? Pure politics, we suspect. Schultz believes that stoking fear of crime will get him elected. While crime rates have risen since the start of the pandemic, to be sure, violent crime is actually trending down, not up, in Minneapolis. And we know that the solution is not to return to the days of fearmongering and extreme policies that drove us incarcerate more people than any other country in the world. If you have any doubt about this, consider some new data. Just last week, a study was released which shows that homicide rates over the last few years increased more slowly in cities with progressive prosecutors than in those with more traditional prosecutors. Earlier this year, another study found that 8 of the 10 states with the highest per capita homicide rates in 2020 have voted Republican in every presidential election in this century. Simply being “tough on crime” is not the answer.

I read recently that rural areas experience more per capital violent crime than cities; don’t take that as gospel yet, as I need to find the article back. (Here is a Bloomberg article discussing the relative safety of large cities, including Minneapolis-St. Paul.)

The three professors go on to identify good things that Attorney General Ellison has done: brought $300 million to Minnesota as part of a multi-state opioid settlement. And this:

The AG can sue landlords who create unsafe living conditions, nursing homes that defraud residents, and e-cigarette manufacturers who market nicotine to youth. Ellison did all of these things as well.

Very importantly, the attorney general — the right attorney general — can protect reproductive freedom.

– o O o –

There are things in both of these opinion pieces that I will use, and you can, too, in conversations with persuadable voters on their choice for attorney general. Personally, I don’t think the choice is close, but to some people it is, and the writers here can help you.

For an additional useful perspective on why Keith Ellison is the person for the job, I suggest you read cattle farmer Dan Gregoire’s letter to the editor in the Marshall, Minnesota newspaper, the Independent. He’s a earlier Spotty™ winner for the letter, which you can read here.

Remember, a Spotty™ is awarded to a letter to the editor, an op-ed, a web story, or now, a tweet, that I wish I had written myself.

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