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Performer Mayyadda singing at the University of Minnesota Juneteenth Celebration “We Are The Noise: The Echoes of Our Ancestors” captured on Saturday, June 15.
Best photos of June '24
Published June 23, 2024

Attorney General

.John James, Independence

What is the role of the attorney general’s office?

The most important role for the attorney general is to be the people’s lawyer, making the law work for all Minnesotans.

Because it’s a constitutional office, (it) is elected as sort of the chief lawyer of the state. I think that is the predominant role; that is not literally the only thing they do, but they need to be looking out for that.

The (office) also represents state agencies in all their legal work, basically, and it also has a role in counseling both the governor and agency heads and legislators on legal matters.

What experience of yours makes you the best choice?

A couple of things: One, I have 32 years’ experience as a lawyer, which is quite a lot more than the competition. Two, most of that experience is in the private practice of law Ö I’ve had clients for years and years and years on the receiving end of Minnesota’s laws and on the receiving end of dealing with state and local governments, so I well understand what some of the problems are in dealing with those folks, and as attorney general I would work to make the system systemically more fair to people.

I spent five years in public service with the Minnesota Department of Revenue, most of the time as commissioner. Ö I got a lot of experience enforcing the law Ö then worked a lot with the Legislature so that we got a lot of tax reform legislation passed.

Then I would also say that I am independent and could easily walk across the hall and talk to the governor, no matter who he is, and we haven’t had that. Ö That won’t be a problem with me.

What would your first priority be in office?

The first the thing I would do is meet with my employees. There’s 375 of them and there’s one of me.

So, your job in a situation like that is to get everyone pulling in the same direction.

So I would immediately meet with all the employees, ask them what’s going well, what’s not going well and what needs to be done differently, all that sort of thing.

In terms of just the (office), maybe the first (thing) I would start doing is (assume) a broader role in public safety, kind of a state leadership role to get the whole state focused on doing what needs to be done to reduce crime, which, incidentally, can be done without enacting the death penalty, which the other two major (attorney general) candidates both are favoring Ö I think it’s a bad, bad idea.

How do you think the office, under your direction, can help University students?

Well, again, I would say that if Hutchinson is elected governor and I am elected attorney general, we will be relentlessly pushing these four major issues Ö which is going to involve making college more affordable. Providing access to aid would be very important and that could be important for people who are still there and not yet graduated.

After you graduate, it’s probably fair to say that the most immediate bang for the buck, so to speak, is systemic health care reform where we’ve got a badly broken health care system and our group, Team Minnesota, is the only group with a serious plan to fix that.

We think we can take $1.2 billion a year out of existing spending and, I might add, cover everybody and put that money into other priorities like education, transportation and the environment.

I think what’s good for all Minnesotans would be good for the current University students, and the things we’d do on education would be especially important on the financial aid front and also in terms improving the education system including the University going forward.

Jeff Johnson, Republican

What is the role of the attorney general’s office?

You have three main roles: No. 1, you are the attorney for government – which is kind of the boring part of the job to most people but it’s really important – chief consumer protector or consumer advocate in the state and chief law enforcement officer in the state.

What experience of yours makes you the best choice?

I have a very broad experience in the law representing both plaintiffs and defendants, representing companies, owning my own small business and also serving in the Legislature and working with many of the legislatures with whom the attorney general needs to work if you want your legislative agenda to pass.

What would your first priority be in office?

Rebuilding the criminal division of the office – it has been cut considerably. And, because of that, I think we have seen a lack of any leadership on issues like violent crime and sexual predators and identity theft.

How do you think the office, under your direction, can help University students?

Well, I think that identity theft would be a great example of something where I know students are often targeted.

Students and senior citizens seem to be targeted more often than anyone else and some leadership from the attorney general’s office in that area, I think, would be very helpful for students.

I think, also, general issues on violent crime – again, we’ve seen the criminal division cut back dramatically Ö should be important to any citizen of Minnesota, but especially students who tend to probably be out and about more and are probably putting themselves in situations where they are more likely to be victims of violent crime or sexual predators.

Lori Swanson, DFL

What is the role of the attorney general’s office?

The attorney general is the chief legal officer for the state of Minnesota and also the chief legal advocate for the people of Minnesota Ö it is the primary enforcer of the consumer protection laws, the public utility laws, the antitrust laws and, in that regard, I think its incredibly important that we have an attorney general who will stand up for the average person against powerful interests that do wrong.

In addition to that, the Legislature has not given the attorney general jurisdiction to prosecute criminal wrongdoing in Minnesota Ö but the attorney general can assist the county attorneys in prosecuting crimes. Bottom line is: the (attorney general) is the one who should stand up for the people of Minnesota when it comes to legal advocacy and should do that strongly and aggressively.

What experience of yours makes you the best choice?

For the last seven and a half years, I have been solicitor general Ö and deputy attorney general for the state of Minnesota.

I’ve been in charge of the consumer protection litigation and the other litigation brought by the attorney general to protect the public. I’ve also managed the state’s lawyers and have managed the state’s litigation in a way that I think has given people a great service.

I think I’ve stood up for the powerless against the powerful and not backed down, and I’ve got the experience to hit the ground running as the attorney general. I’m already on the ground working in the attorney general’s office.

What would your first priority be in office?

Three of the top areas that I’m concerned about are:

Health care reform; I think we have a very messed-up health care system. It’s important for the attorney general to make sure people don’t fall through cracks as our health care system undergoes change.

Second is corporate accountability. We get 500 to 700 phone calls a day (and) 100 written letters a day from people of all ages (and) all parts of the state and it’s important the attorney general follow through on those complaints in cases of corporate wrongdoing, to make sure people don’t get hurt and there is some sense of justice.

The third area is public safety Ö we can also use the public role of attorney general’s office to advocate for better criminal protection laws and also better funding.

There’s been a lot of budget cuts that’s occurred in the last several years by the Legislature. It’s important to prosecute cases on the back end and it’s also really important to fund criminal prevention on the front end before the crime is committed. I’d like to use the attorney general post to tell the Legislature (not to) shortchange public safety when it comes to the funding.

How do you think the office, under your direction, can help University students?

I’m not going to be giving opinions to shut down the University of Minnesota. Jeff Johnson, my opponent, drafted a bill in 2004 to strip the University of Minnesota of all public funding if it accepted private money to carry out stem cell research Ö that could well be put on the plate of the next attorney general and Jeff Johnson believes that the (University) should be stripped of all public funding.

I think the (University) already has enough funding problems of its own; I would never take a position like that.

Second Ö we do a lot of advocacy for people of the college age. College-age people will be preyed on (by) scam artists, and I would continue to keep that a big focus of what the office does for people.

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