Anyone spending an hour interviewing Minnesota attorney general candidate Sharon Anderson is likely to wish a libel lawyer were present.
We can’t repeat the various allegations, old and new, that the Republican hopeful lodged in an hour-long Aug. 2 interview. Which is to say, we can’t relate a lot of what she has to say. But here’s one relatively benign sample:
“I’ve been thrown in jail, thrown in nut wards,” Anderson said. “They’re trying to bug me in this house. I’ve been reduced to poverty. They tried to hack my computer with my Windows 10.”
Alone among nine candidates in this profile series, Anderson declined to meet or be photographed. As a partial explanation for that, she said that she recently heard radio host Rush Limbaugh say on air that White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders now needs a security detail. Anderson, obviously, has no such luxury.
“Now, I’m not big and important like that,” she said. “But I do rock a lot of boats with a lot of people.”
A lot of people rock boats with her, too.
Over decades, Anderson has filed voluminous lawsuits against judges, law enforcement, prosecutors, elected officials and banks. She remains perpetually miffed with the authorities who evicted her from her St. Paul Summit Avenue residence in 1988 for failing to pay property taxes. (She says she can prove she paid up and that the property remains hers.)
Though she began running for office at least a decade before that, her eviction is at the root of a perpetual quest to attack public malfeasance, using the ballot box.
“How am I, with no money, going to expose government corruption?” she said. “Only by being a candidate.” She already looks ahead to her next race for St. Paul City Council, she said.
Anderson remains vexed, too, by her 1996 arrest in Itasca County on terroristic threat and harassment charges, which led to 94 days in a psychiatric ward. Eventually a judge released her after finding her in partial remission from her illness.
One positive came from that experience—a campaign slogan. “I am the only certified sane candidate,” Anderson says happily. She has had made the most of her motto.
Anderson has run for everything from state House to Minnesota Supreme Court justice, even U.S. president. Her electoral record roughly parallels her trial record; she rarely comes close to winning. She has, however, cracked 30 percent at the polls nine times, most recently in a 2016 state Senate race.
And she can look back on one startling triumph. In 1994, Anderson beat Tom Neuville in the attorney general’s race primary. Neuville, then a state senator, retired in January from his job as a Rice County district court judge.
Surprisingly, Anderson said she found that experience rather joyless. She can think of only one moment she really liked—being interviewed in radio talk show host Barbara Carlson’s famous hot tub. “That was fun!” she said.
Anderson can be disarmingly warm when talking of her hosta plants or the kitty mewing in the background. But she can shock, too. The figures who populate her Centaurus-like constellation of grievances, for example, often get indecorous appellations attached to their names—“the Muslim,” “the lesbian,” “the black man.”
Sometimes she moves from one mood extreme to the other in a single ping-pong paragraph of dialogue. “I know I am hard to follow,” she said. “But I have 40 years of evidence on all this stuff.”
Her life’s purpose is to lay all that evidence out to the public, revealing government abuses that she says have been visited on her and other people—like convicted parental-rights violator Sandra Grazzini-Rucki—whose causes she champions. You can look up those manifold allegations on her campaign web site, blog postings and long litigation trail. We’ll refrain—that libel attorney is still not handy.
While she acknowledges winning is not her aim, Anderson claims she is “more serious” than usual about this race. For that, she cites twin causes: Donald Trump and Keith Ellison.
“I am loyal to Donald Trump,” Anderson swoons. “I love that man. I love his family.”
She calls the president her “mentor,” though one wonders if the reverse couldn’t be true. Her innovative 1994 campaign promise to throw Skip Humphrey in prison for treason predates the Trumpian “Lock her up!” chant by two full decades.
Her feelings toward Ellison are noticeably less rhapsodic. Because of his religion, she said, Ellison is unqualified to be attorney general. If he should win, she fears being recast as a “second-class citizen.”
“Ellison is a Muslim,” she says dispositively. “How can a Muslim take an oath to support and defend the United States Constitution? He can’t. He owes his allegiance to the Quran and to sharia law.”
She cannot be convinced that Islam’s followers constitute no unified, purpose-driven bloc in opposition to her politics. “There is only one kind of Muslim that I know of,” Anderson said.
We feel morally obliged to point out that she is wrong. To state the obvious, Sunnis, Shiites and Sufis are three major Islamic variants of Islam and they have major doctrinal differences. Ellison reportedly identifies as Sunni.
Likewise, it’s untrue that Muslims uniformly agree on sharia. According to a 39-country Pew Research Center poll in 2013, adherents tend to view sharia as “the revealed word of God” rather than “a body of law.” Even where “sharia law” is thought desirable, there are few countries where a majority believes that law should apply to Muslim and non-Muslim alike.
Not that railing against his religion is her only strategy for derailing the Ellison campaign train.
She said she recently petitioned the Lawyers Professional Responsibility Board to get Ellison’s law license revoked. Doing so ignores an irony—Anderson is herself no attorney. In fact, she harbors deep animus toward pretty much all lawyers and declares she doesn’t need to be one to serve as AG. (She’s right that it’s not required.)
The lawyers’ board did not share its reply to Anderson’s complaint. But Anderson read part of it aloud over the phone.
It said she accuses Ellison of using his congressional office and attorney general candidacy “to attack President Trump and incite violence.” She also charged that Ellison’s conduct “constitutes treason” and “violates the separation of powers doctrine.”
Anderson said the board won’t investigate her complaint. Its website shows that Ellison is current on his Minnesota registration fees as of January 2018. It also indicates that he voluntarily requested his Minnesota license be inactivated because he hasn’t kept up on local CLE credits.
If he did that, he’d be immediately reinstated, a board spokeswoman said.
Not all of Anderson’s goals involve Ellison. In fact, should she somehow manage once again to Neuville the competition, she has other big plans.
Atop her list, Anderson wants somehow to revive Magner v. Gallagher, a St. Paul fair housing case that the U.S. Supreme Court accepted in 2011, but never heard because the parties agreed to a dismissal.
Anderson blames that outcome on the machinations of former assistant U.S. attorney general for civil rights, Tom Perez. Perez is now chair of the Democratic National Committee—where Ellison is deputy chair. So he is implicated, too. “I call them the Obama boys,” she said.
Anderson also wants to eliminate all of Minnesota’s 87 county attorneys and its city attorneys. In their place, 10 statewide district attorneys would be appointed under her command. Why do that? “Because we are over-lawed and over-lawyered,” she said. “I believe that we do not need all these lawyers.”
Further, she would forcefully utilize parens patrie (“parent of the fatherland”). The legal precept allows state attorneys general to, for example, sue private companies on behalf of citizens for monetary damages, in a manner similar to class actions.
So, again, why? “Because we wouldn’t have all these family court squabbles, let’s put it that way,” she said.
Anderson additionally wants to impeach some judges and accomplish various other things besides. She knows she is never going to make any of it happen. But it doesn’t matter because, to Anderson, more than personal ambition is at stake.
“I’m not going to win the election,” Anderson said. “But let’s hope to God that we win the war for Donald Trump.”
Name: Sharon Anderson
Age: Not available
Lives in: Not available
Education: “School of hard knocks.”
Family: Widowed. One daughter, seven grandchildren.
Surprising fact: “The only addiction that I have is this computer. My computer is my main man.”