Homemaker, University grads fight for position

by Jake Kapsner

Busting foes that range from violent gangs to health maintenance organizations tops the priority lists of candidates in the Minnesota attorney general’s race.
Four candidates vie for the office being vacated by gubernatorial hopeful Hubert H. “Skip” Humphrey III, but being elected the top legal advisor to the state entails greater responsibility than simply fighting crime.
“The attorney general is the chief protector of public rights and the principle consumer advocate,” according to the Office of the Attorney General credo. The $93,000-a-year job also includes duties like drafting legislation, writing opinions, advising clients and responding to citizens’ questions and concerns.
Candidate Ruth Mason contends that administrating is the prime purpose of the attorney general. Mason, the lesser-known Libertarian candidate, said her strong organizational skills are solid enough credentials for such a “management” position.
Mason, a homemaker with no past legal experience, advocates the right to own and carry concealed weapons, is against telemarketing and telephone fraud and says most people use the office of attorney general as a political stepping stone.
While she says she wouldn’t seek higher office if elected, many people — including Warren Spannus before Humphrey and Walter Mondale in the 1960s — have done just that.
Mike Hatch, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor candidate, ran for Governor in 1990 and 1994 and was Commerce Commissioner under Gov. Rudy Perpich, where he regulated banks and big business. The 49-year-old currently practices law in a private firm.
Charlie Weaver, the Republican candidate, has served as a state representative in District 49A for 10 years, where he sponsored bills prohibiting weapons in schools and increasing penalties for drunk drivers. The 44-year-old is currently on leave as an Anoka County prosecutor.
Both major party candidates are University Law School alumni who have identified a public enemy they would tackle as attorney general.
Hatch has a record as a consumer advocate who ran the state’s key watchdog agency for seven years. He wants to address the ethical issues entwining HMO’s, insurance companies and related businesses.
And while Weaver boasts high figures for prosecuting felons and introduced legislation that lets juries hear DNA statistical evidence in rape and murder cases, he opposes Hatch’s proposal for a major change in the state’s criminal justice system.
The change would give the attorney general’s office direct power to prosecute gangs, he said.
Instead, Weaver wants to focus on smaller crimes that lead to larger problems, limit juvenile crime and crack down with tougher consequences.
Mason said the major parties have similar convictions with too much government regulation over citizen’s lives.
“An adult needs to be treated like an adult. Government doesn’t need to act like a person’s parent,” she said.
She also noted the libertarian belief that legalizing drugs will help decrease violent crime — citing the Prohibition era’s high crime rate — and lighten the load on jails packed with addicts.
Reform Party candidate Jim Mangan didn’t respond to phone calls, and information regarding his background and campaign positions was not available.