Here’s how seriously GOP candidate for Minnesota attorney general Doug Wardlow took his primary election opposition: He spent election day hopping between fundraising events around Duluth.
The atmosphere at Wardlow’s campaign headquarters, located in a nondescript Burnsville office building, was equally sanguine. About 10 supporters joined campaign manager Billy Grant for pizza and pop, occasionally checking their cellphones for early returns.
Wardlow’s campaign strategy leading up to the primary was simple and unusual: Start by focusing on the candidate’s likely opponent in November, former U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison.
Granted, Wardlow’s GOP opposition wasn’t exactly daunting. Eighty-seven-year-old former DFL state Sen. Bob Lessard ran mostly as a way to promote Minnesota’s Legacy Amendment funding for game, fish and wildlife habitat, coming in third with 21.64 percent of the vote. And Wardlow’s second-place opponent, Sharon Anderson, is known mostly as a perpetual candidate with such quirky ideas as eliminating the posts of city and county attorneys. However, the results represent the 10th time that Sharon Anderson has racked up at least 30 percent of the vote in a primary election. Unofficially, she finished with 32.08 percent of the vote Tuesday.
“Neither of them is an attorney,” said Grant. “We’ve out-fundraised Lessard 140 to 1.”
The confidence of Grant and his team was well-founded. Wardlow, 40, cruised through the primary with more than 46 percent of the vote. As it has all along, his campaign has its sights set on Ellison.
“I look forward to sharing our message of law and order across the state!” tweeted Wardlow once the result was final.
Wardlow has labeled Ellison an extremist, and has been less than subtle about the consequences Ellison’s Muslim faith might have for Minnesotans. And Ellison received what might be termed an August surprise recently when reports emerged about a former girlfriend who says Ellison physically abused her.
“We’ve been hearing from Democrats all along that we have to believe women,” said Grant. “I guess we’ll see if they really believe that.”
Meanwhile, Wardlow isn’t exactly a moderate voice from the other end of the spectrum. He’s a vocal supporter of president Trump, and he works as an attorney for the Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian conservative nonprofit that litigates religious liberty cases.
He’s found a kindred spirit in campaign manager Grant, a proudly conservative Christian who also staunchly supports the president and has used his Twitter account to brand Ellison with the nickname “Crazy Keith.”
To his supporters, Wardlow represents a return to the kinds of all-American values they can get behind.
“He’s scary smart, and yet he’s sort of like a Norman Rockwell figure,” said campaign treasurer Greg Buck on election night. “I’ve known him for years, and he’s got lots of integrity.”
“The campaign has a foundation of grass-roots energy,” said Grant, who came on board the campaign in June. “Doug’s idea is to restore the rule of law while also maintaining a level of consumer protection.”
Now that the light scuffle of the primaries is over, Wardlow’s campaign can concentrate on November. Grant says everyone involved is looking forward to it.
“You’ll see outside spending for this campaign that you haven’t seen before,” he promised. “People are paying attention.”