Attorney General-elect Keith Ellison on Thursday outlined plans for his transition from Washington to St. Paul, picking his congressional chief of staff to assume the same role when he takes office in January.
The six-term congressman, who will be sworn in on Jan. 7 along with the new governor and other statewide officials, said Thursday that Donna Cassutt will help manage the attorney general's office. He also named Sarah Walker, a government affairs consultant, and Richard Allyn, former solicitor general and chief deputy attorney general, as transition co-chairs.
"I am honored to have earned the trust of the people of Minnesota to serve as their Attorney General, where I will fight for affordable health care, a fair economy, and equal rights for all," Ellison said in a statement announcing the moves, which he said would "help build a strong, dedicated, people-centered public law firm for the people of Minnesota."
Cassutt has managed staffs for Ellison in both Washington, D.C., and Minnesota. Ellison said Thursday that Cassutt will oversee early priorities for the office — which will be led by a new attorney general for the first time since 2006 — that stand to cover issues touching on affordable health care, economic opportunities and civil rights.
Before defeating Republican Doug Wardlow in Tuesday's election, Ellison also promised to make his first legislative priority a push to protect staff attorneys from being fired based on their political affiliation.
Walker and Allyn will also help hire senior staff members. Walker has advocated for criminal justice reform and founded the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition. Allyn is a partner at Robins Kaplan LLC and specializes in business litigation. Both participated publicly in events supporting Ellison late in the campaign.
Also this week, Ellison told Minnesota Public Radio that he notified Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez that he "will be retiring from that role to devote all my time to the people of the state of Minnesota." Perez edged Ellison in a February 2017 vote to be the party's national leader and immediately created a new deputy position for which he selected Ellison. Ellison said previously that he was considering stepping down while campaigning for attorney general.
Stephen Montemayor • 612-673-1755 Twitter: @smontemayor