Former state representative Dennis Smith announced in June that he will run for attorney general of Minnesota. Smith is the second Republican to announce a run for the office, joining Doug Wardlow, who challenged DFLer Keith Ellison in the 2018 general election.
In announcing his candidacy, Smith said he wanted to take politics out of the attorney general’s office. The Osseo resident and attorney represented Maple Grove and Osseo while serving two terms in the Minnesota House of Representatives. He received numerous awards for work on protecting consumer rights, small businesses and the environment.
Though he touts his conservative principles and backgrounds in campaign literature, Smith also says he has the ability to work with members of the opposition to get things done.
During a recent visit to Litchfield, Smith stopped at the Independent Review to discuss his candidacy.
INDEPENDENT REVIEW: Tell me a little bit about why you are running for attorney general.
SMITH: So, I grew up in White Bear Lake and my dad was a milkman. And I spent countless hours in his milk truck, and he had a key to everyone’s house, so he could put the milk inside. And he had the trust of all of his customers and our community. My father told me about how we’re, you know, we’re better off when we work as a community, and we trust each other. It’s the honor of my life to run for attorney general, because I feel we’re at a crossroads in our society. We have this massive distrust in our government and our institutions, in the judicial system, certainly in the attorney general’s office. It’s creating just, you know, the trajectory that we don’t want to have in our society. And I think I’m uniquely qualified to right that ship and to start to restore trust by bringing transparency to the process.
I want to bring back this idea that we can work together, and the all the vitriol in politics doesn’t need to happen. So much more unites us than divides us. And you’ll see, as my campaign unfolds, that we’re going to have this message of real unity, and the bridge builder that I was at the capital, you’ll see in my style on the campaign trail. It is vastly different than anyone else running, and I’m the only electable Republican, and the only person that can beat Keith Ellison in 2022.
INDEPENDENT REVIEW: What would you do on day one? If you were Attorney General, how would you change things?
SMITH: So a really important part is policing. We need to have more police in our society. And our police need to know that they’re supported. I’ve just met with the sheriff (Meeker County Sheriff Brian Cruze) and I thanked the sheriff for his service. And I told him to thank his team for their service because the police are critical to restoring law and order in our society. So there are bad actors in the police force, undoubtedly. We saw that unfold before our eyes. We knew that before former officer Chauvin was convicted. We need to change those arbitration rules in the Minneapolis police department. Fifty percent of the officers that were let go were reinstated, when they went through the arbitration process. You need to do a lot to let go a police officer, yet 50% are reinstated. So we need to work on getting the people that need a new profession to get them a new profession. The vast majority of the 99.99% of officers, need to be supported So police is number one.
And number two is that we need to restore this trust with our public, not only in the policing, but also in the judicial system, in our government and in our institutions.
INDEPENDENT REVIEW: Many politicians talk about bringing people together. Unfortunately, it rarely happens or seems to rarely happen. What makes you the guy that can make that happen?
SMITH: That’s a fair point. And I understand talk is cheap, but I’ve proven it. At the Legislature, I have a four-year record. You can pull up my bills, and there are contentious issues, very contentious. And most of them passed with large bipartisan support. So I’m proven to really listen, sit at the table, listen to all the stakeholders. I’m at the table and met with legislators one by one by one and proved to them that, you know, we can work together very well, we just both need to try. And there’s not enough of that in politics right now.
INDEPENDENT REVIEW: So that brings up another question. Is a bridge builder what the Republican Party is going to want in this position? I mean — and not saying anything about the Republican Party, because if you were DFL I’d be saying the same thing — is that what they would want? Is that going to get you the endorsement? Is it going to get you out of a primary if you choose to do that?
SMITH: That’s a good question. I think want versus need is really a way to look at that. The Republican Party is going through some times right now. We had an incredibly popular president who had great policies. And some of his tweets and activities on social media wasn’t met with a lot of popularity, you know, throughout the country. So the party is doing some self-analysis. I’m part of that group looking forward about what do we need to do to bring the Republican party and win a statewide race, which we haven’t done in 16 years. And it’s been 56 — I repeat 56 years — since we’ve won the Attorney General’s Office. So having a bridge builder is what is really needed in order to bring I think, for the Attorney General role, which is really what my answer would pertain to. Because the judicial system is not meant to be partisan. And right now, there’s too much politics in this position. That won’t happen when I’m attorney general.