WORTHINGTON - Growing up in Northfield, the late U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone was Matt Pelikan’s self-professed hometown hero.
Pelikan, during a visit to The Globe last week, recalled attended his first precinct caucus event at age 13, and later became precinct chair in Northfield before he could legally vote. He then went on to attend St. Olaf Collage, where he led College Democrats, organized against military action in Iraq during George W. Bush’s presidency and wound up for working for Wellstone, Dayton and DFL’er Mike Ceresi.
Now, Pelikan is ready to take his take his next significant step in politics. He’s the endorsed DFL candidate for Minnesota Attorney General, and is one of five Democrats who hope to earn the top spot for their party in Aug. 14 primary voting.
“I think we need more progressive leadership in the attorney general’s office,” Pelikan said. “The attorney general is in charge of vindicating civil and constitutional rights, and when people are violating those rights … absolutely, the attorney general needs to step in.”
Currently a lawyer with the Madel P.A. firm in Minneapolis, Pelikan also previously clerked for Minnesota Supreme Court justices David Lillehaug and Paul Anderson.
He lists “three e’s” as his top issues should he ultimately be elected attorney general.
“We have to fight for a fair economy,” Pelikan explained. “The attorney general is in charge of representing all Minnesotans, and we need to make sure the economy is working for everyone and providing fair wages, equal access and plentiful, fair opportunity.
“Minnesota has fallen behind many states in our basic enforcement of existing consumer laws,” he added. “We have cannot afford this lax enforcement, and we must vigorously protect consumers.”
Equal rights for all Minnesotans is also at the top of Pelikan’s priority list should he earn win in both the primary and November general election. He stressed the importance of standing with the state’s immigrant community, offering full workforce protections and freedom from housing discrimination for all, pledging full support for LGBTQ residents and more. If elected, Pelikan would be the first openly-gay attorney general in the country and first openly-gay statewide office holder in Minnesota.
“We have to take on the hard fights,” Pelikan said. “I’ve spent my life encountering literal and figurative bullies, and I’m never going to back away from a fight.”
Pelikan stated that he’d also emphasize the importance of environmental stewardship, noting the state’s “astounding natural beauty” while adding that he’d work to maintain “not just the aesthetic nature, but the health and safety of communities.”
While Pelikan concedes that he may not be the most well-known political candidate, he said he’s the attorney general hopeful who’s been out on the campaign trail the longest and spent a year traveling across Minnesota listening to constituents. He believes he understands the complexities of the office, and has what he deems a “big, comprehensive vision” that he intends to present in a positive manner.
“You do better by giving something to be for rather than something to be against,” he said. “I think it’s important to make your choices out of hope and love and you won’t regret them … focus on the things you can do, focus on your hopes. Then you’ll have a politics that engages more people.
“Folks want people to challenge the status quo because that’s what we need in our society … and this campaign is about making a positive difference.”