ST. PAUL, Minn. (KMSP) - As the slugfest that is the Minnesota attorney general's race intensified this week, surrogates -- and not the candidates themselves -- launched the toughest attacks.
At almost the same time Friday afternoon, former Vice President Walter Mondale and the Minneapolis police union president entered the fray. Mondale spoke out against Republican Doug Wardlow, while the union accused Democrat Keith Ellison of being anti-cop.
Ellison left the attacking to Mondale and others Friday, while Wardlow didn't attend the police union's news conference about Ellison.
Mondale's criticism centered around Wardlow's plan to fire 42 DFL lawyers in the attorney general's office if elected.
"This is unheard of in Minnesota to fire public lawyers," Mondale said at a roundtable with Ellison. "They’re good people. They need our support."
Meanwhile, Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis President Bob Kroll took jabs at Ellison, an old foe of the union.
Kroll noted Ellison's ties to former gang leader Sharif Willis. Willis was suspected to be involved in the murder of a Minneapolis police officer in 1992, but police never charged Willis.
Ellison, an attorney, spoke at a rally organized by Willis in 1992 and later defended Willis in an unrelated criminal case.
Ellison has said his views have evolved, but Kroll said he believes otherwise.
"I think Keith would like the public to believe that," Kroll said at a news conference in St. Paul. "I think he’s got a different agenda that is, quite frankly, anti-law enforcement."
When asked why Wardlow didn't attend the news conference, Kroll said Wardlow had "other commitments." Wardlow's campaign said the candidate was campaigning in Greater Minnesota.
Kroll said he thought it would be a conflict of interest if Ellison sought to have the attorney general's office investigate police-involved shootings because of Ellison's background.
He said the union didn't conduct a poll of its 900 members, but that there was consensus that "we can't let Ellison have the office."
Ellison declined to address Kroll's criticisms, instead abruptly ending his Friday event.
"No," Ellison said, when Fox 9 asked him to respond to Kroll. "So with that everybody, thanks a lot. Take care."
A small number of polls in recent weeks have shown the race is closer than other statewide contests.
"There’s only one poll that matters. And that’s the one next Tuesday night," Ellison said.