ST. PAUL - Minnesota Republicans had high hopes this would be the year they would break the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party’s grip on the state’s constitutional offices.
An open race for attorney general seemed like their best bet. But Democratic candidate Congressman Keith Ellison was poised to disappoint them, according to election results late Tuesday, Nov. 6.
DFL leaders declared Ellison the victor just after 11:30 p.m., but his opponent, Republican Doug Wardlow had not conceded the race and did not respond to a request for comment.
“I want to tell you that we have a wonderful party,” Ellison said to a cheering crowd at a DFL rally in St. Paul. “We have a party based on values of love, respect, transparency, accountability … All wrapped up in the simple idea that everybody counts and everybody matters.”
Just after midnight, Ellison had a nearly 120,000-vote lead over Wardlow, a former one-term state lawmaker. With more than 90 percent of the vote counted, Ellison had 50 percent to Wardlow’s 45 percent, according to unofficial results from the Minnesota secretary of state’s office.
Noah Johnson, the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party candidate who endorsed Ellison, had nearly 6 percent of the vote. Johnson’s showing could bring his party more statewide recognition.
Ellison jumped into the attorney general race late after incumbent Lori Swanson decided in June to run for governor. He ended up winning a crowded DFL primary, but not before a former girlfriend accused him of physical and emotional abuse.
Ellison has repeatedly denied the allegations.
Wardlow won the Republican Party’s endorsement at their state convention in Duluth. He was relatively unknown statewide going into the race, having served one term in the state House.
Wardlow’s and Ellison’s supporters began slinging mud early.
Republicans criticized Ellison for his past ties to controversial figures like Louis Farrakhan. They also called fellow Democrats hypocrites for sticking by Ellison after the abuse allegations.
Democrats went after Wardlow’s time as a lawyer for the Alliance Defending Freedom where he worked to undermine LGBTQ rights. They’ve also criticized Wardlow for politicizing the office after he was caught on tape saying he would fire Democrats who held appointed positions.
While much of the campaign has been focused on the accusations, the winner will be Minnesota’s top law enforcement official.
Ellison has said he wants to be the “people’s lawyer” and hold the powerful accountable. He’s highlighted his support for reproductive rights, says he’ll defend the Affordable Care Act and protect workers.