Brainerd native John Remington “Jack” Graham is running for Minnesota attorney general.
The former Crow Wing County attorney and longtime foe of fluoridation said there are morale problems in Attorney General Lori Swanson’s office that he has learned about through media reports and his own independent knowledge.
He said the attorney general’s office has become the political property of one party. DFL candidates have successfully won election to the post for decades.
Graham, 69, said the office is being used unethically, citing a 2006 legal settlement involving Capital One Bank in which the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now or ACORN received money from a legal judgment. ACORN’s political action committee subsequently endorsed then-Attorney General Mike Hatch for governor. Swanson, then a top attorney in Hatch’s office, was also endorsed by the group for attorney general.
Swanson could not be reached for comment Monday night.
“I would certainly change the direction of the attorney general’s office,” Graham said in a phone interview from his home in St. Agapit, Quebec, Canada. “I want to clean up the ethics of the attorney general’s office and then work on cleaning up the ethics of state government … We will not use that office to promote selfish political ambitions.”
Graham was elected county attorney in 1990 in what most observers saw as a huge political upset. He had been living in Quebec at the time but established a legal residency in Brainerd before the election. Graham served one term as county attorney and did not seek re-election. He was a special counsel to the city of Brainerd from 1974 to 1980 and led the unsuccessful fight against mandatory fluoridation of the city’s water.
The attorney, who will seek the Republican Party’s endorsement, said he practices law in Minnesota periodically and estimated he travels back to his home state about six to eight times a year. He unsuccessfully sought the Republican endorsement for the attorney general post in 1998.
Graham said he will establish residency by staying with a friend in St. Paul and begin campaigning in earnest by early next year. He registered a political committee with the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board on Wednesday.
Graham has unsuccessfully sought judgeships on at least two occasions.
In addition to his law practice, Graham said he recently completed his literary work, which he described as a major treatise on the intended meaning of the U.S. Constitution, which involved 40 years of scholarship.
He declined to speculate on his chances to win the state office.
“Every time I thought I was going to win I lost and every time I thought I was going to lose I won,” he said. “I’ve stopped making predictions. One thing I do feel pretty sure about. You have to win the state (party) endorsement. I certainly would have to have the state endorsement.”
He said that if someone else won the Republican endorsement he was almost 100 percent sure he would back that person. “Maybe if I put my hat in the ring I might encourage others to do likewise,” he said.
Asked if he would end his race if a suitable candidate surfaced, Graham was noncommittal.
“Well, that’s speculating, but anything might happen,” he said.
The former Brainerd attorney said he switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party because of the former’s stance on social issues.
“I think what happened is that the Democratic Party became the party of abortion on demand, gay marriage and global warming,” he said. “I found I was much more comfortable being a Republican than a Democrat.”
He and his wife, Sylvie, who he said was the mairesse or female mayor of St. Agapit, have five children. If he were elected, Graham said they would be visiting each other quite a bit.