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DL well-wishers send Johnson off on high note

If Minnesota Attorney General candidate Jeff Johnson was looking for a receptive audience to discuss his political ideas, he certainly found it Friday at The Lodge on Lake Detroit.

Making his last stop in his hometown prior to Tuesday's statewide elections, Johnson spoke briefly to a group of well-wishers that included former classmates, teachers, relatives and friends.

"If hard work, good morals and a love of Minnesota is enough to win this election, then he will win it," said Jeff's proud mother, Dianne Johnson of Detroit Lakes.

"He's worked so hard -- and he's such a nice guy," she said, while acknowledging with a smile that she might be a bit biased.

But if the hugs, handshakes, smiles and laughter that greeted Johnson at Friday's reception were any indication, she wasn't alone in her assessment.

Johnson, who is the endorsed Republican candidate, is a hometown boy, having grown up in Detroit Lakes and graduated from high school here in 1985. And he gratefully acknowledged the support of family and friends in his greeting to those in attendance.

"The campaign has been going extremely well," he said, adding that he's enjoyed the opportunity to travel throughout the state so extensively since beginning his campaign a year and a half ago.

"I've been trying to get to every corner of Minnesota," he said. In a later interview, Johnson acknowledged that he has been focusing his campaign on getting out to all the non-metro areas of the state because he feels that is where the race will be won or lost.

"I spent about half of my time this summer traveling outside the Twin Cities," he said. "I think the race will be decided out here, in greater Minnesota."

Currently finishing out his third term in the Minnesota State House of Representatives, Johnson said he decided to run for attorney general because he feels the office is in need of an overhaul -- or rather, that it needs to be run the way it was back in the days of Hubert H. Humphrey III (1983-99) and Warren Spannaus (1971-83).

"There used to be a line between the people at the top of the office and everybody else (i.e., the lawyers, paralegals, etc., who handled the day-to-day operations)," Johnson said, adding that aside from those 2-3 people at the top, the rest of the staff were expected to "enforce and interpret the law without considering the political consequences."

"That's really changed -- and it's not a Democrat/Republican thing at all... Humphrey an Spannaus (both Democrats) treated the office very differently," Johnson said. "They were relatively non-partisan. We need to return to that (type of leadership)."

By "de-politicizing" the AG's office, Johnson believes he would be able to focus more on what the AG is supposed to be doing -- serving as the state's chief law enforcement officer and public safety advocate.

Johnson has pledged that his top priority as AG would be to keep the state's youngest residents -- its children -- safe, by establishing stronger protections against the dangers of methamphetamine and sexual predators.

More focus on the education of the state's youth about meth's frightening effects is one key to halting the spread of the drug, Johnson feels.

"We need to make kids understand how meth is different from many other drugs -- to scare them about it," he said.

He also is a strong advocate of enforcing the state's identity theft laws, and has been the author of two bills that have significantly strengthened those laws.

Johnson believes consumer education is the key to lessening the frequency of identity theft crimes.

"Much of our identity theft problem could be solved if consumers had more information on how to avoid the scams that are out there," he said.

Johnson would also like to see the criminal division of the AG's office rebuilt, so the state's county attorneys will have more assistance from the state in prosecuting crimes; and to see more public safety funding put into long-term methamphetamine treatment.

Now that the campaign trail is nearing its end, Johnson said, "I'm ready for this election."

Vicki Gerdes

Staff writer at Detroit Lakes Newspapers for the past 16 years, currently editor of the entertainment and community pages as well as covering city council and the Lake Park-Audubon School Board. Living in DL with my cat, Smokey.

(218) 844-1454