Newcomer Jim Schultz is the GOP’s pick to challenge Keith Ellison

Jim Schultz’s high school classmates in Annandale were convinced that the beloved distance runner and devout Catholic would one day become a priest. After two years in the seminary, he was well on this path.

But a detour to Harvard Law School and a career pivot in the legal industry back home in Minnesota instead set Schultz on a surprising journey that now positions him as the state’s preferred Republican Party candidate to challenge the attorney general. of DFL Keith Ellison in an election that Republicans are talking about with serious seriousness.

“I feel like we’re losing the state I grew up in,” the 36-year-old native of the small central Minnesota town of South Haven said in an interview last week, days after getting the endorsement of the Minnesota GOP at its convention in Rochester.

The political newcomer is now aiming to unseat incumbent Ellison to reverse a long statewide losing streak for Republicans. But first he must counter a primary push by the party’s 2018 nominee Doug Wardlow, who last week announced he would challenge Schultz in the August primary despite previously vowing to respect the endorsement .

“It became kind of a distraction in terms of beating Keith Ellison,” said Schultz, who called Wardlow’s decision deeply disappointing. “But basically Keith Ellison is a deeply unpopular attorney general, we’ll beat him whether you have a primary or not.”

Schultz, who lives in Minnetonka with his wife, Molly, and three young children, quickly garnered support from veteran GOP leaders and operatives to help run his campaign when he decided to run for office. last year. Rob Eibensteiner, the former state party chairman, manages Schultz’s campaign. Former U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden is its finance chairman.

Jeanette Purcell, a key GOP fundraiser who attended high school with Schultz, will also help the campaign raise funds.

Schultz decided to come forward after spending a decade as a Minnesota attorney — most recently at Värde Partners Inc., a Twin Cities hedge fund. He argues that the attorney general’s office is too political under Ellison and not enough is being done to address the scourge of violent crime in the state. To make that point, he likes to share the story of his sister calling him in tears from her north Minneapolis home after gunshots pierced its walls one morning.

“I view what is happening in our cities as well as other parts of the state with the increase in crime as an absolute and utter disgrace,” Schultz said. “What we are seeing right now is a man-made disaster.”

Schultz partly cites rising crime as a motivation for running for office decades earlier than expected. He said he previously considered public service as a possibility in his 50s or 60s long after establishing himself in private practice.

Now Schultz is hammering Ellison for his support of Minneapolis’ failed ballot measure that would have stripped the Minneapolis Police Department from the city’s charter and remade it as the Department of Public Safety. Republicans have linked the charter – and Democratic officials such as Ellison – to the “defund the police” movement that gained momentum after the 2020 killing of George Floyd.

After the endorsement, the campaign for Ellison described Schultz as emerging from a “pack of right-wing extremists.”

And after winning the DFL’s endorsement on Saturday, Ellison asked delegates: “Do we want leaders who are going to protect us or who are going to attack us?

“We need a party that will take us forward, not a party that will take us backwards,” he said.

DFL party chairman Ken Martin called Schultz “an inexperienced hedge fund lawyer in a Minnesota courtroom, and the last thing we want is for someone like that to take a hammer.” at the Attorney General’s Office.

Purcell called Ellison “the most beatable statewide candidate on the ticket right now” – particularly on the main issue of “law and order”. She suggested that Schultz’s mild-mannered campaign style could win over a wide range of voters statewide.

“Jim is well put together. I don’t have to worry about Jim saying something out of the blue or not thinking about it,” Purcell said. “He’s very methodical about it and won’t run with a crowd spouting conspiracy theories. He’s direct and the donor community appreciates him.”

Tom Kelly, a partner at Dorsey & Whitney who worked with Schultz when he was at the firm, described the young candidate as “essentially doing a better job running a campaign than I tried to run 20 years ago.” when he unsuccessfully challenged the DFL Attorney General. Mike Hatch.

“The state would benefit from someone running this office professionally rather than as a launchpad to the next office,” Kelly said.

Writer Emma Nelson contributed to this report.

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