(FOX 9) – Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison’s case is the subject of new TV ads from his campaign and his rival, Republican Jim Schultz, and both are stretching their hands as they seek to win over voters.
Ellison won the job in 2018 by a margin of 3.9 percentage points, the closest statewide contest in a year when Democrats swept the statewide races. Polls suggest this year’s game between Ellison and Schultz is a statistical stalemate.
Over the past few weeks, Ellison and Schultz have traded attacks and rolled out dueling endorsements. In his first television ad ahead of the Nov. 8 election, Ellison says he tried to beef up his office’s criminal prosecution unit. Schultz says Ellison looked the other way as violent crime increased.
“Your vote for Attorney General comes down to one question,” Schultz said in a direct-to-camera delivery. “Can you trust Keith Ellison to keep you and your family safe? His record says no.
As police sirens wail in the background, text on the screen reads that Ellison “has partnered with (US Representative) Ilhan Omar to fund the police.”
This is misleading because it confuses the failed 2021 Minneapolis police ballot measure with an actual vote to defund the police.
Ellison approved the ballot question, which would have replaced MPD with a security agency and eliminated the city’s minimum personnel requirement. That put him at odds with several other Minnesota Democrats, including Gov. Tim Walz and U.S. Senator Amy Klobuchar.
The ballot issue was not enough to defund the police. Instead, funding decisions would have been left to future city councils. Ellison, as a statewide constitutional officer, would not have had a vote.
Next, Schultz says Ellison “let the violence spread like a cancer” while the ad’s on-screen text claims violent crime has increased 63% since Ellison took office.
While intangible claims like Schultz’s cannot be verified, we can assess the data used to back them up.
Schultz’s 63% claim is inaccurate, FOX 9 found using data from the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which publishes annual statewide crime statistics.
The data indicates that overall violent crimes increased to 17,631 offenses in 2021, from 12,406 in 2018, a 42% spike. That’s a big increase from the year before Ellison took office, but not as big as Schultz says.
The Schultz campaign said it drew the 63% figure from a subset of violent crimes, aggravated assault. Aggregate data also includes murders, rapes and robberies.
Murders are up 93% since 2018. Robberies are up 35%. Rapes are down 7%, according to state data.
Ellison uses his own publicity to defend his violent crime record.
“As attorney general, I hired more prosecutors to work with law enforcement across Minnesota and tackle the most serious crimes,” he says.
This characterization is misleading in two ways, FOX 9 found. First, it overstates the attorney general’s limited role in prosecuting criminal cases.
In Minnesota, counties handle most criminal prosecutions. The Attorney General can only take a criminal case when a county attorney requests assistance or when the governor removes a case from a county.
Ellison also doesn’t say how many criminal prosecutors he added, and that’s important context. As of this summer, three criminal attorneys had worked in the attorney general’s office, up from one when Ellison took the job.
Neither Ellison nor Schultz says three criminal prosecutors are enough.
Schultz called in 30 by reassigning attorneys who are currently assigned to trade regulatory affairs. A spokesperson for Ellison said Schultz would struggle to assign enough attorneys to handle criminal cases while fulfilling his duty to uphold state laws relating to consumer protections, utilities and gambling. charity.
Meanwhile, Ellison has asked lawmakers this year for $1.8 million to hire seven new prosecutors and grow the unit to 10 attorneys. Republican lawmakers rejected the request, saying Ellison’s current budget is sufficient.
The other claim in the ad comes from Hennepin County District Attorney Mike Freeman, one of nine county prosecutors who endorsed Ellison last week. “He didn’t lose a case,” Freeman says, echoing a claim Ellison himself made recently.
It’s true that Ellison’s office hasn’t lost a single criminal case in the last four years. But again, due to the Attorney General’s limited role in criminal prosecutions, there is not a large sample size: only 43 cases involving charges.
Ellison staff say 26 of those cases have resulted in convictions. Seventeen are still active.
FOX 9 Fact Check: Here’s Our Scoring System
- True: accurate information requiring little or no additional context
- Needs clarification: generally accurate information that omits context and would be helpful to voters
- Not the whole story: the information presented leaves out a significant amount of context that could lead voters to a different conclusion
- Misleading: partial information presented in such a way as to mislead voters
- False: inaccurate information or information presented out of context
See other FOX 9 Fact Checks Here.