GOP AG hopeful: state losing its way on justice
NEW ULM — Jim Schultz, Republican candidate for state attorney general, visited New Ulm on Wednesday, saying unlike the last Republican nominee, he can win in November.
Schultz said he worked in the private sector as a business attorney his entire career and identified as a political outsider.
“I am not a politician,” he said. “I step forward because I feel we are losing the state I grew up in.”
Schultz won the Republican endorsement in May but is facing primary challenges from Doug Wardlow and Sharon Anderson. Wardlow previously lost a campaign for attorney general to incumbent Keith Ellison. Schultz said Wardlow previously agreed to abide by the party endorsement but broke the pledge.
“Fundamentally, I am the candidate who can win,” Schultz said. He described Wardlow as a candidate who lost three elections in a row. “We’ve got to make sure we win for the future of our state. In this election. Failure is not an option.”
Schultz said in addition to being endorsed by the Republican Party, he was endorsed by police, gun owners caucus and pro-life leaders.
Schultz claimed the office has 150 attorneys in office who spend most of their time suing Minnesota businesses.
“We can hold businesses accountable for committing serious fraud and malfeasance,” he said “but what we shouldn’t do is embrace a policy that pursues and harasses businesses.”
“The Attorney General’s Office needs to be entirely restructured,” he said.
Schultz said Ellison has been too aggressive in going after small businesses. He believed Ellison did not understand the needs of greater Minnesota economies, which are mostly rural.
“We also have to have an attorney general that recognizes that there are not just two or three counties in Minnesota,” he said. “The success of our state depends on a thriving agricultural economy.”
He wanted to reallocate resources away from business crime to focus on violent crime. Schultz called for more criminal attorneys in the to support the work of county attornies around that state.
Schultz believes Ellison has embraced far-left extremist policies, citing the “defund the police” movement as the most extreme position. Schultz believes defunding the police is the reason for the increasing crime in the state.
He described Ellison’s efforts to defund police as reckless.
“How is it possible that half of a Minneapolis street can be burned down, and a Minneapolis police station is burned down and hardly anyone is prosecuted for it?” he asked.
Schultz said if elected attorney general, he would partner with law enforcement and would not make them enemies.
Schultz was asked if had any intention of holding police responsible for wrongful deaths and how he planned to do it.
Schultz said a police officer committing a crime needed to be prosecuted like anyone else. He said as attorney general he would pursue a case involving a police officer aggressively and in a fair manner, but qualified that by saying he would not pursue cases if he did not agree with the charges.
He gave the example of officer Kim Potter, who shot and killed Daunte Wright, mistaking her gun for a taser.
He said Potter was originally charged with second- and third-degree manslaughter before Ellison upgraded it to first-degree manslaughter.
“It hard to believe based on any plausible reading of the statute for first-degree manslaughter that she committed that,” Schultz said. Schultz acknowledged Potter made a serious mistake and should face consequences but believed the incident was over-politicized.
Schultz acknowledged there were bad cops out there that needed to be held accountable, but he did not believe defunding would help. He claimed the people most negatively impacted by defunding police would be poor minority communities.
“The fact is they need more law enforcement and asking for more law enforcement,” he said.
Another argument for defunding police was to reallocate funds previously used for policing to benefit underserved programs that also reduce crime. Schultz said that is not a serious proposal. He said social workers could be a benefit to police officers but could not help with a violent domestic dispute. He agreed a social worker could help after an incident but said shifting money to social services in Minneapolis resulted in further crimes.
“We can acknowledge social workers can be valuable, but they can’t come at the expense of our police force,” he said.
Schultz believed Minnesota has a strong social safety net with resources to deal with the underlying causes of crime.
Asked about the surging number of mental health cases police are being called to, Schultz agreed it was a big issue and adequate mental health treatment was needed; especially in rural areas where resources are limited.
“I am very attentive to the need to deal with ways in which mental health can contribute to crime,” he said. “Unfortunately, I can’t as attorney general devote myself more resources to mental health. I would certainly like to see that from the Legislature and the governor.”
Schultz claimed there was significant nonprofit fraud in the state that needed to be addressed. He cited an alleged Feeding Our Future fraud. He said the attorney general is responsible for overseeing nonprofits across the state and he believed significant red flags were missed.
“We have to have an Attorney General’s Office that prioritizes the oversight of nonprofits to ensure tax money or donor money goes to the purpse for which it was intended,” he said.
Recently the Minnesota legislature passed a law legalizing edible cannabis with limited notice, leaving law enforcement questioning how to enforce any marijuana laws. Schultz was asked how he would handle the changing legal landscape for marijuana.
Schultz said he was disappointed in the legalization of edibles, especially without a regulatory framework, and he is opposed to the legalization of recreational marijuanna, but would enforce the laws that are on the books.
Schultz grew up in South Haven, Wright County. He attended two years at St. Thomas in the seminary before transferring to Harvard Law School. After school, he moved back to Minnesota with his wife. They have three children together.