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Other View: Ellison must focus on core role of office

Keith Ellison, Minnesota's newly elected attorney general, has a lot of work to do when he takes office in January, including improving perceptions about his personal character and restoring faith in an office that has been weakened by accusations it has become politicized.

The campaign between Democrat Ellison and Republican Doug Wardlow was marred by unsubstantiated accusations of abuse by Ellison's former girlfriend and a well-funded and ugly advertising campaign.

Ellison is coming into an office that has been in some turmoil since staffers there accused Democrat Attorney General Lori Swanson of pressuring them to do political work for her.

Ellison must first ensure his staff feels absolutely free of political pressure and able to do their jobs in a solid work environment. The office should be filled with the best lawyers, regardless of their political affiliation.

He should also focus on the core roles of the AG's office including defending state agencies in court, helping county attorneys in their major prosecutions and appeals, going after companies that defraud consumers, regulate charities and enforce antitrust laws.

Across the country attorneys general have become more political and have increasingly used their powerful offices to file suits aimed at going after the opposing political party. With a Republican president in office, Democrats in AG offices have sued over President Donald Trump's policies, including travel bans and immigration.

That trend is likely to increase after January as Democrats took a majority of the AG offices — 27-23 — in the midterm elections.

While those lawsuits may cheer Trump opponents, it detracts from the most important jobs attorneys general should be doing for their residents.

No matter what party they are from, an attorney general must show residents that they are a legal champion for everyone in the state.

— The Free Press, Mankato, Minn.