This week The Intercept has broken a couple of stories regarding Minnesota Attorney Genera Lori Swanson, now seeking the DFL gubernatorial nomination in a wildly competitive primary contest in which the endorsed DFL candidate appears to be lagging the field. I noted the stories by Rachel Cohen yesterday in “Scooping the Star Tribune.” I credited Cohen with breaking these stories from her perch in Washington, D.C. In today’s Star Tribune reporters Patrick Coolican and Jessie Van Berkel follow up on Cohen’s stories:
A day after a former aide accused Attorney General Lori Swanson of using her elected office to advance her political career, Swanson responded Friday by releasing the aide’s criminal record — in e-mails from the attorney general’s office.
In response, the ex-aide, D’Andre Norman, sought a restraining order against Swanson. He contends some of the convictions Swanson made public had been expunged by court order.
Coolican and Van Berkel note: “The remarkable sequence of events came just days before Swanson, Minnesota’s three-term attorney general, will compete in the DFL primary for governor.” Indeed, the primary is Tuesday and the hour is late.
In its own way the Coolican/Van Berkel story lends support to the charge against Swanson:
“In the attorney general’s office we have rules, we have policies, and one of those rules is nobody engages in political activity on the clock of the state of Minnesota,” Swanson said. “To my knowledge, nobody has engaged in political activity on the clock of the state of Minnesota.”
Ben Wogsland, a spokesman for the attorney general who is an employee of the state and not the campaign, spent part of his day Friday defending Swanson and criticizing Norman, even as she was being accused of improperly using office resources for her political career.
Swanson doubles up on her use of the ad hominem argument to respond to the two Intercept stories: “Swanson’s office also questioned the Intercept’s motives in publishing the allegations against her, attempting to draw a link between a financial backer of the site and several companies that have been sued by Swanson’s office.” The Star Tribune story today is worth reading in its entirety. It strongly suggests that the Attorney General’s office has become a political cesspool over the past 16 years.
This should bring us to a close look at the contest for the DFL nomination for Attorney General in which — wait for it — Fifth District incumbent Keith Ellison must be deemed the frontrunner. The Star Tribune has endorsed one of Ellison’s opponents but has contributed approximately nothing to voters’ understanding of the choices before them in the DFL primary contest.
Ellison’s interest in exercising executive power as Minnesota Attorney General created an unexpected opening in the Fifth District. The DFL primary contest features three substantial candidates contending for the nomination. The Fifth District is a one-party DFL territory. Whoever wins the primary will go on to win the election and represent the Fifth District in Congress for as long as she wants to.
Ilhan Omar is the endorsed DFL candidate and frontrunner in the primary contest. Margaret Anderson Kelliher is her most formidable opponent by far. Indeed. at the Fifth District DFL candidates’ forum at Temple Beth El this past Monday evening, Kelliher crushed Omar. By contrast with Kelliher, Omar came across as frivolous, formulaic, phony and unfit for the office.
Late yesterday morning The Intercept posted Maryem Saleh’s backgrounder on the Fifth District primary contest: “THERE’S “NO QUESTION” A PROGRESSIVE WOMAN WILL REPLACE KEITH ELLISON IN CONGRESS. BUT WHO WILL IT BE?” Saleh is partial to Omar and writes from the left, yet the backgrounder is probably more informative than anything that has appeared in the Star Tribune on the race.
Saleh’s story touches on two issues that we have explored in depth on Power Line. Here Saleh draws on an interview with former 22-term incumbent state representative Phyllis Kahn, whom Omar defeated in the 2016 primary contest:
Omar’s time in politics has not been without controversy. She has stepped into the hot button issue of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, drawing accusations of anti-Semitism by critics who falsely conflate criticism of the Israeli government with prejudice against Jews.
Though the accusations against Omar have originated on the right, her Democratic opponents are not shy about picking up on them. Kahn, in her interview with The Intercept, said without prompt that Omar was “anti-Semitic,” and that “the story about the two husbands is completely true,” referring to a 2016 controversy in which Omar was accused of being a bigamist who married her brother to commit immigration fraud. At the time, Omar said in a statement that the rumors about her personal life were “absolutely false and ridiculous.” Kahn, apparently, is not convinced. She said, “This kind of Minnesota niceness, or whatever, of not wanting to appear racist — it’s something no one’s willing to go after her for.”
In its incredibly superficial coverage of the DFL primary contests the Star Tribune has shortchanged its many readers in the Fifth District and beyond.