First-time candidate Jim Schultz won the Minnesota Republican party’s endorsement for state attorney general Friday after a dramatic see-saw endorsement battle.
Schultz earned the endorsement after a comeback over three ballots to defeat 2018 candidate Doug Wardlow during the Republican Party of Minnesota’s state convention in Rochester.
The current Minnesota attorney general, Keith Ellison, a Democrat, was elected in 2018 and is seeking re-election. Ellison is expected to receive the endorsement of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party at its convention next week, also in Rochester.
“The fight against Keith Ellison starts tomorrow,” Schultz said in accepting the nomination, calling Ellison “radical.”
Regardless of the endorsement, a Republican primary appeared inevitable, as a third candidate, former state lawmaker Dennis Smith, declined to attend the convention in favor of proceeding directly to the Aug. 9 primary. Wardlow didn’t endorse Schultz in his concession speech; a spokesman said he will not run in the primary.
If Wardlow had won endorsement, that would have set up a likely November general election rematch between him and Ellison, who squared off in 2018. Ellison won that race by the narrowest margin of any Democrat — a point Wardlow underscored as he fought for delegates Friday.
While he’s a first-time candidate, Schultz, a Minnesota native and attorney, had earned respect within party activist circles for putting in time for the party’s organizing efforts and for his own campaign.
In the first ballot — featuring four candidates — Wardlow held a lead, with about 42 percent of the vote to Schultz’s 34 percent. Retired Judge Tad Jude had nearly 20 percent of the vote, setting him up to be a possible kingmaker. After Schultz gained ground on the second ballot, Jude announced he was supporting Schultz.
On the third ballot, Schultz was within a few percentage points of the needed 60 percent to secure the endorsement. Before the fourth ballot, Wardlow conceded.
Legally speaking, party endorsements mean nothing. Candidates still have until May 31 to file for their names to appear on the Aug. 9 primary ballots. The primary winners will face off in the Nov. 8 general election.
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