Leaked recordings showing that Republican Doug Wardlow plans to fire a number of Democrats if elected to the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office struck a blow to his campaign’s momentum this week.
But similar tactics employed by his Democratic predecessors, both locally and nationally, have been mostly left out of the story.
“For 48 years the Democrats have used that office to push their big government agenda. We need to take that back not for the Republican Party but rather because of rule of law, the Constitution, and liberty,” he said at a fundraiser for Rep. Jason Lewis (R-MN-02), adding that he plans to fire 42 Democrats if elected to the position in November.
A Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) Party tracker recorded the comments, and leaked them to local media outlets, according to The Star Tribune. DFL Chairman Ken Martin later responded to the reports by suggesting that the “Attorney General’s Office should attract the best and brightest, regardless of political affiliation.”
“There are plenty of lawyers who have worked for years in that office for different attorney generals, in fact a lot of career lawyers who make it their life work of working in public service. That’s the way it should be,” he continued.
The Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, however, has been occupied by a DFLer ever since 1971, and has been repeatedly described as a workplace of intimidation and fear ever since former Minnesota Attorney General Mike Hatch took over in 1999. Hatch was succeeded by Democrat Lori Swanson, who launched a failed bid for governor this year, and the office has been roiled by reports of political disarray throughout the whole process.
MinnPost’s Eric Black has covered the goings-on of the office in great detail. In 2008, for instance, he reported that Swanson intimidated staffers against unionizing after Assistant Attorney General Amy Lawler was suspended allegedly for speaking to the media. The fallout from the incident resulted in 50 employees either resigning or being fired.
When Hatch was in charge, he created a reputation of being “savvy, dangerous and committed to the use of political subterfuge and hardball tactics to accomplish his politic plans,” so much so that Black began referring to his subordinates as “Hatchophobes.” Hatch later ran for Minnesota governor, but lost after calling a reporter a “Republican whore.”
On a national level, President Barack Obama quietly replaced a “batch” of attorneys in the U.S. Attorney General’s Office after winning his first election.
“One of the things that we didn’t want to do was to disrupt the continuity of the offices and pull people out of positions where we thought there might be a danger that that might have on the continuity. But…elections matter—it is our intention to have the U.S. Attorneys that are selected by President Obama in place as quickly as they can,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in 2009.
In response to criticism from the DFL, Wardlow claimed that in the “entirety” of his comments, he “clearly stated that the current Attorney General’s Office has been nothing but political.”
“Let me perfectly clear: As I have consistently stated throughout this campaign, I will appoint assistants and deputies who believe in the rule of law and the Constitution,” he said. “There will be no litmus test for party affiliation.”
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