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Bar Buzz: 3 Dems drop out of AG race as Swanson stays in

Lori Swanson’s decision not run for governor but instead seek re-election as attorney general has added clarity to two state House races.

Rep. Debra Hilstrom, DFL-Brooklyn Center, and former Rep. Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, both kept their pledges to drop out of that race if Swanson remained. But both also say the will run again for the House.

Winker said Thursday he wants to win back his old District 46A seat, from which he resigned in 2015. It is being vacated by two-term incumbent Rep. Peggy Flanagan, DFL-St. Louis Park, the running mate to DFL gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Tim Walz. Medicine Lake DFLer Brittany Edwards was already running for that seat.

Hilstrom, a nine-term incumbent, said Wednesday that she will run for re-election to her District 40B House seat.

Despite making close to 250 stops around the state over the past year, Hilstrom waxed philosophical when asked if she wished Swanson had made a decision sooner.

“I knew when I got into the race that she was going to be focusing on doing the job,” Hilstrom said. “She made it very clear that she wasn’t going to make that decision until 2018, from the very beginning.”

Hilstrom said she had believe Swanson would run for governor. But after speaking with the attorney general, Hilstrom said she now thinks Swanson decided to stay to focus on some upcoming, high-profile court cases.

In late January, Swanson sued the Trump administration to keep it from withholding about $130 million in federal MinnesotaCare funds for the state’s working poor.

Meanwhile, the state’s suit against 3M that seeks $5 billion in damages for allegedly dumping hazardous wastes over a period of decades is moving ahead. A motion hearing in that case is scheduled for Feb. 9 before Hennepin County District Court Judge Kevin Burke, with the trial following on Feb. 13.

Both Winkler and Hilstrom said they will support Swanson’s re-election.

“It’s a very important office, but we have someone who is serving there now and there is no reason not to support Lori Swanson for her re-election,” Winkler said.

On Wednesday, a third Democrat, St. Paul City attorney Sam Clark, also withdrew from the race for attorney general.

Clark announced his bid in early December with the support of several high-profile figures—Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi and former U.S. Attorney Andy Luger among them. Clark sent out a written statement Wednesday announcing the suspension of his campaign.

“I entered the race under the assumption that Attorney General Lori Swanson wouldn’t seek re-election,” it says. “My assumption was wrong.” He also pledged his support to Swanson.

One Democrat is staying in the race. Another reportedly is thinking it over.

Matt Pelikan, a Minneapolis civil litigation attorney, said he will remain. “I’ve been clear from the beginning that I am running regardless of Attorney General Swanson’s intentions, because we need decisive, progressive leadership,” Pelikan said in an interview Wednesday. “That is the kind of attorney general I’ll be.”

Pelikan said he will, however, abide by the DFL endorsement when it comes at the party’s state convention in June.

Former Commerce Commissioner Mike Rothman, who left the Dayton administration in November to join the race, did not respond to a request for comment. However, he told Minnesota Public Radio Tuesday that he is “seriously reviewing the situation” in light of Swanson’s announcement.

Former state Rep. Doug Wardlow, R-Eagan, is the lone Republican competing for Swanson’s job.

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