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Crime a top concern for Attorney General Keith Ellison, challenger Jim Schultz but they split on solutions

At separate news conferences on Monday, July 11, the two candidates vying for Minnesota General outlined their ideas for combatting violent crime in Minnesota.

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Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, left, and AG candidate Jim Schultz are seen in a composite of photos on Monday, July 11, 2022. Both spoke about crime and safety in Minnesota.
Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison and Republican challenger Jim Schultz on Monday, July 11, shared concerns about violent crime in Minnesota and laid out their proposals to combat it.

And their plans highlighted stark differences between the Democratic-Farmer-Labor and Republican-endorsed candidates.

Ellison met with gun control advocates in Maplewood and afterward said the state needed to do more to prevent gun violence.

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Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, right, and U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, left, speak with reporters outside the Maplewood Library on Monday, July 11, 2022.
Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service

"We can't have a serious conversation about public safety and exclude a conversation about guns," the first-term Democrat said. "It's time to make our community safer by stopping the ready access to these guns."

Congress took a positive step by implementing additional restrictions for young people buying firearms and putting in place provisions that encourage states to adopt red-flag laws, Ellison said. But more could be done to prevent gun violence, he said.

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Schultz, the Republican Party-endorsed candidate running to unseat Ellison, on Monday said additional regulations on firearms aren't the answer.

"You have so many things, so many laws on the books, many of which we're failing to enforce adequately," he said, noting that the state should first focus on enforcing existing laws.

The state should also boost penalties for violent offenses and ensure that prosecutors and judges hold offenders to account, Schultz said.

At a news conference at the Capitol earlier Monday, Schultz said that, if elected, he would transfer 30 prosecutors in the Attorney General's Office to the criminal division from divisions that regulate businesses, set a specific penalty in law for carjacking, form a blue ribbon panel to study violent crime in Minnesota and raise awareness about county attorneys that he feels miss the mark in their charging decisions.

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Republican Attorney General candidate Jim Schultz on Monday, July 11, 2022, speaks with reporters at the Capitol about his public safety plan.
Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service

"The Attorney General's Office is focused on many other things other than the crime that is plaguing communities," Schultz said. "So we have to have dramatically more criminal attorneys in the Attorney General's Office."

Ellison earlier this year requested additional funding from the Legislature to bring on nine additional criminal prosecutors but lawmakers didn't approve the money. There are currently three prosecutors in the criminal division who are charged with supporting county attorneys with criminal cases.

Schultz also criticized Ellison for not taking violent crime more seriously in his capacity as attorney general. And he said he disagreed with Ellison's handling of the prosecution of former Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter.

Schultz said he would support commuting Potter's sentence if he was elected and made a member of the Minnesota Board of Pardons. Potter was convicted of manslaughter after she fatally shot Daunte Wright during a traffic stop in 2021 after yelling "Taser."

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"It's become a fundamentally political office, much more interested in the headlines in the Star Tribune, much more interested in pleasing the far left within the Democratic Party than an office that simply does justice every day of the week. That's what the Attorney General's Office should do," Schultz said during a news conference at the Capitol.

Ellison is set to face Bill Dahn in the Democratic-Farmer-Labor primary contest on Aug. 9, while Schultz is set to square off against Sharon Anderson and Doug Wardlow in the GOP race. The winner of each primary will move on to the General Election in November.

MORE FROM DANA FERGUSON:
Several incumbent state legislators, particularly in the Senate, edged out competitors with more extreme views on COVID-19, election security and more.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter  @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email  dferguson@forumcomm.com.

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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