Attorney general race decided by four points

Jake Kapsner

In the race to become the watchdog for Minnesota consumers, Mike Hatch nudged out Charlie Weaver, 495,582 votes to 454,901, for Attorney General.
As of press time Wednesday morning, Hatch snagged 48 percent of the vote in replacing Hubert H. “Skip” Humphrey III as the top legal adviser to the state.
The $93,000-a-year job’s duties include providing legal representation to every state board, commission and agency. The attorney general’s office also serves as the state’s principle consumer advocate through divisions focused on consumer protection, charities oversight, antitrust enforcement and utilities regulation.
Hatch, the 49-year-old Democratic-Farmer-Labor candidate from Burnsville, was commerce commissioner for seven years under Gov. Rudy Perpich. As head of this watchdog agency, he earned a record as a consumer advocate regulating banks and big business.
Hatch has said he would challenge the ethical issues surrounding health maintenance organizations during his four-year term.
Weaver, the 44-year-old Republican candidate and Anoka County prosecutor, served as a state representative in District 49A for the past 10 years. As of press time, he had 44 percent.
Reform Party candidate Jim Mangan snagged 5 percent of the vote despite responding to virtually no media inquiries leading up to the election.
Mangan ran as a Democrat from Anoka for the House of Representatives in 1992 and 1994 and lost both times to Weaver, a Republican.
Libertarian candidate Ruth Mason received 24,435 votes, which was 2.3 percent of the total.
Public attention on the race was decidedly low-key for such an important government office, largely because of an overshadowing gubernatorial race, said University political science professor Virginia Gray.
Gray said that Hatch’s name recognition and greater advertising funds helped him win.
Hatch ran for governor in 1990 and 1994 and was DFL chair from 1980 to 1982, factors which provided statewide name recognition in this election, Gray said.
University political science professor, William Flanigan, said while attorney general is an important office to the state, the position has little impact on students.
Gray said the influential state office “is more of what you make it.”
“Minnesota attorney generals have been activists in recent years,” she said, starting with Miles Lord years ago and leading up to Humphrey.
“I believe Hatch would continue that activism by going after consumer issues,” she said.