Third-party candidates in the state’s upcoming attorney general race delved into issues of police brutality, prison-worthy crimes and drug prevention at a debate on the University of Minnesota’s campus Tuesday night.
Mary O’Connor, Andy Dawkins and Brandan Borgos — who are endorsed by the Libertarian Party, Green Party and Independence Party, respectively — attended the event held at Anderson Hall hosted by Students United Against Police Brutality.
Though the student group extended invitations to the race’s main party candidates, Sen. Scott Newman, R-Hutchinson, and democratic incumbent Lori Swanson, neither were present at the debate.
The three third-party candidates collectively criticized their absent opponents and agreed on policy issues, including the legalization of marijuana and the dangers of police militarization, but they often disagreed on solutions.
SUAPB Vice President Eric Schiltz said despite repeated attempts to bring the major party candidates to Tuesday’s debate, Swanson was unreachable after more than a dozen calls and Newman refused to attend unless Swanson did.
The state’s attorney general serves as Minnesota’s chief legal officer and holds positions on state boards and other groups that influence public policy.
During the debate, Borgos called the position “the second-most important office in the state” to the governor.
SUAPB President Eric Bauer said the group’s social and political concerns shaped the agenda for the event.
“SUAPB exists basically to foster a climate of resistance and activism,” he said.
Throughout the night, each of the three candidates repeatedly expressed support for the legalization of cannabis.
O’Connor, the Libertarian candidate, emphasized the protection of individual rights from the government. Crimes like voluntary prostitution and recreational drug use are victimless and should be decriminalized, she said.
Green Party candidate Dawkins also pushed for legalization of marijuana. He said the criminal records of those already incarcerated for dealing or possessing the substance should be expunged and those individuals should be released from prison.
Candidates also expressed concerns about police militarization.
Borgos of the Independence Party supported the use of body cameras on law enforcement officials. Both he and Dawkins said they want to repeal federal programs that give police departments access to surplus military-grade equipment.
Another repeating theme Tuesday night was weighing the use and power of the state’s attorney general position.
Dawkins, who called the office “the attorney of the people,” said he wants the position to expose injustices in the state’s education and prison systems.
Borgos said if elected, he would make government transparency a first priority.
“Sunlight is the best disinfectant,” he said at the debate.