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Rep. Debra Hilstrom said she's resigning from her job as an assistant Anoka County attorney to dedicate herself full-time to campaigning for state attorney general. “The office is getting busier and busier and the cases that I care about very much are needing to be addressed,” she said. (Staff photo: Kevin Featherly)
Rep. Debra Hilstrom said she's resigning from her job as an assistant Anoka County attorney to dedicate herself full-time to campaigning for state attorney general. “The office is getting busier and busier and the cases that I care about very much are needing to be addressed,” she said. (Staff photo: Kevin Featherly)

Debra Hilstrom quits as prosecutor to focus on race for AG

Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center, has resigned from her job as an assistant Anoka County attorney to dedicate herself full-time to campaigning for state attorney general.

Hilstrom has been on a leave of absence from her job as a criminal prosecutor since January, she said. The decision to leave the job was made “out of respect for the office that I care about,” she said.

“The office is getting busier and busier and the cases that I care about very much are needing to be addressed,” Hilstrom said. “I have resigned so that they can hire somebody and so that I can go out and do campaign activities full time.”

Her candidacy, however, is unofficial and provisional. It will become official only when and if current Attorney General Lori Swanson leaves her job to pursue a rumored candidacy for governor.

Hilstrom will not run against Swanson if the incumbent seeks another term, she said. But neither is she waiting around to launch her campaign.

Since taking her leave of absence, Hilstrom said she has attended more than 150 campaign events. She was on her way to a campaign fish fry in International Fall on Thursday when she confirmed her resignation by phone.

Hilstrom said no one should read her announcement as a clue that Swanson has tipped her hand. “She has not declared and I don’t know anything in particular,” Hilstrom said.

A spokesman for Swanson confirmed late Thursday that she has not yet decided whether she will run for governor or for another term as attorney general.

Hilstrom plans to retain her seat in the Legislature. She is in the middle of her ninth term after having first been elected in 2000. She is the DFL lead on the House Public Safety and Security Policy and Finance committee and also serves on the Civil Law and Data Practices Policy, Commerce and Regulatory Reform and Ways and Means committees.

As an Anoka County criminal prosecutor, Hilstrom specialized in financial exploitation of older adults, abuse and neglect cases and sex crimes, she said. She previously served six years on the Brooklyn Center City Council and worked as an advocate for the Brooklyn Center Domestic Abuse Intervention Program.

At last count, she was among four active candidates in the attorney general’s race.

Former state Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, and Democratic attorney Matt Pelikan have also announced as provisional candidates, waiting for Swanson’s decision. Rep. John Lesch, DFL-St. Paul, ran briefly but dropped out in late September.

Two Republicans also are running. Harry Niska is a partner at Ross & Orenstein in Minneapolis and a former clerk to 8th Circuit U.S. Appeals Court Judge Roger L. Wollman. Former one-term state Rep. Doug Wardlow, R-Eagan, is also in the race.

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