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Port: Wrigley launches attorney general campaign with emphasis on law and order

In this political environment, that's an astute messaging choice for a candidate to make.

Drew Wrigley
Drew Wrigley, North Dakota U.S. attorney, announced Tuesday that he will step down from the position in August. David Samson / The Forum

MINOT, N.D. — There are a lot of things a candidate running for attorney general in North Dakota could make their campaign about.

Our attorney general does a lot of things, after all.

The AG is a regulator, serving alongside the governor and the agriculture commissioner on the Industrial Commission which, among other things, oversees oil and gas development. The Attorney General's Office regulates charitable gaming and concealed carry permits, and licensing for everything from alcohol retailers to fireworks wholesalers also go through that office.

The AG is, of course, an attorney too. When the State of North Dakota is sued, or files suit, it's the attorney general who handles the litigation. That's an important gig given how much our policy gets made in courtrooms these days. The AG also provides legal counsel to the various state agencies.

Open records and open meetings laws are enforced by the attorney general. When some public entity is being something less than transparent with the public, it's the AG who calls them out on it.

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But Drew Wrigley, the former lieutenant governor and U.S. attorney for North Dakota under two presidents, has decided to make his campaign for attorney general about the law enforcement aspects of that job.

At least, that's what the video he released this week for his nascent campaign tells us.

For the bulk of the 3-and-a-half-minute video, Wrigley talks not one bit about his six years as lieutenant governor under former Gov. Jack Dalrymple, but almost entirely about his record as an enforcer of the law.

More specifically, he talks about his role in prosecuting participants in the 2020 Fargo riot which was inspired by the death of George Floyd.

Wrigley fought hard to bring those who committed crimes during that conflagration to justice, he notes, and argues that this rigorous enforcement of the law inspired subsequent demonstrations to be more peaceful.

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A school official frustrated with a reporter's coverage was able to convince a law enforcement agent to launch an investigation that included seizing that reporter's phone so she could comb through all the personal and professional information on it. That shouldn't have happened, and it cannot happen again.

It's a convincing argument, to be sure, and one that will likely resonate with a voting public that's grown weary of the violent expression of extreme political views, be they from pipeline protesters or "social justice" demonstrators or Trump supporters attacking the U.S. Capitol.

Some political observers have questioned Wrigley's chops as a candidate. This is, as my fellow columnist Mike Jacobs pointed out this week , is Wrigley's first time on the ballot as his own candidate and not someone's running mate.

Will he make a good candidate?

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This video seems a good indicator that he will be.

We live in disordered times.

Wrigley is talking about order.

That's an astute messaging choice for a candidate to make.

It's difficult to discern just how competitive the AG race is going to be. Wrigley is the only candidate for Republicans so far.

District Court Judge Wade Webb, from the Fargo area, is interested in a run for the NDGOP nomination, but he'd need to resign his judgeship to do so. If he wants to be in the race, he'd better get in soon, as he's not as well known to the state's voters as Wrigley is, and the NDGOP's district meetings, opportunities for statewide candidates to make connections with local activists across the state, will commence soon. The state convention, where the NDGOP will endorse its candidate, is just a few months away.

As for Democrats, there's not even a whiff of a candidate so far, and I think it's safe to bet they won't be very competitive in this race.

Still, Wrigley is not someone who takes anything lightly. His campaign for AG is aggressive, already, and that's completely in-character for him.

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His bid will be a difficult one to beat for anyone who ends up challenging him.

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