ST. PAUL—Matt Pelikan, a Democratic attorney with significant political experience, is joining the ranks hoping to replace Attorney General Lori Swanson.
"This is a time of unprecedented challenges for Minnesota and for the progressive values that I cherish," Pelikan, who will formally announce his campaign in the coming days, said in an interview. "I believe we need a strong progressive attorney general now more than ever."
The race for Minnesota's top lawyer may or may not have an incumbent. Swanson, a three-term Democratic incumbent, is weighing whether to run again or vie in the governor's race.
Pelikan, like others, is not waiting for her to decide. Two Democrats—Rep. Debra Hilstrom and former Rep. Ryan Winkler—and two Republicans—activist Harry Niska and former Rep. Doug Wardlow—are already running for the office. Democratic Rep. John Lesch was running but dropped out on Friday.
"This is too important for us to wait," said Pelikan, who was raised in Northfield. He said he would abide by the DFL party's endorsement next year, which means if party activists do not pick him he would not run in a primary.
If he won, he would be the first openly gay attorney general in Minnesota.
Before attending the University of Minnesota for law school, Pelikan worked for late U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone and Mark Dayton's senate campaigns in the fundraising areas. He also worked in finance for an Ohio Senate candidate, a Florida gubernatorial candidate, the Ohio Democratic party and the Minnesota 2008 senate campaign of Mike Ciresi.
He has clerked for the Minnesota Supreme Court and is now of counsel for the litigation boutique firm Madel PA.
Pelikan, 36, said the attorney general's office should set the standard for consumer protection and civil rights.
"What the next challenges will be require really strong, robust progressive attorneys general who are willing to lead," he said. He said that the attorney general's office could do more with the resources it has and that if he won, he would focus attention on the cost of prescription drugs and allowing consumers to have more choice across the marketplaces.
"I believe my background in small-town Minnesota, with a loving family and a strong community, but as a gay kid," attending Minnesota schools and working in politics, he said, "has taught me the values of standing up for everyone and absolutely commitment to making a positive difference in people's lives."