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DFL Attorney General Keith Ellison and Republican challenger Jim Schultz are nearly deadlocked in the battle for the state's top legal office, according to a new Star Tribune/MPR News/KARE 11 Minnesota Poll.

The poll found 46% of respondents support Ellison, with 45% favoring Schultz. In the fight for secretary of state, DFL incumbent Steve Simon leads GOP candidate Kim Crockett by a margin of almost 8 percentage points.

With less than two months until Election Day, Ellison — who won by less than 4 percentage points in 2018 — is trying to hang on against political newcomer Jim Schultz, whose campaign trail messaging has zeroed in on rising crime, a key issue for many voters. Ellison's narrow lead falls within the poll's margin of error, which is plus or minus 3.5 percentage points.

Two out of three voters in Hennepin and Ramsey counties backed Ellison, while those in greater Minnesota and a wide swath of suburban and exurban counties supported Schultz, the Minnesota Poll found. The poll, which was conducted Sept. 12 through 14 with 800 likely voters in Minnesota, showed similar geographic divides in the governor and secretary of state races.

All three of those statewide Democratic candidates fared better than their GOP counterparts among voters younger than 50. But while both Simon and Walz got more support from those 65 or older and independent voters, in the attorney general's race Schultz was more popular among older voters and independents.

"I see a lot of polls, all of which tell me this is a very competitive race," Jeanne Stuart, Ellison's campaign manager, said in a statement after hearing the result.

Schultz's campaign, meanwhile, reiterated their message that he will partner with police to tackle violent crime.

"Keith Ellison is going to lose in November. Just as Minneapolis voters rejected Ellison's efforts to defund the police, Minnesota voters will reject Ellison's second term as they continue to learn about his extreme far-left record as attorney general," Schultz's campaign manager, Christine Snell, said in a statement.

Ellison has said he did not back defunding. Stuart said the GOP is spreading disinformation "to distract Minnesotans from the fact they want to roll back abortion rights and let corporations roll over Minnesota families, and the fact that his opponent has never stepped foot in a courtroom."

Nine percent of poll participants had not decided who they would pick for attorney general, and more than 12% had not made up their mind in the secretary of state race.

Clayton Kearns, of Blaine, was not in that camp. He plans to split his ticket in November. The 39-year-old advertising agency owner described himself as conservative-leaning, but said he votes based on the candidate. He intends to support Walz, Simon and Schultz.

"It's not so much about Jim Schultz, it's more about not Keith Ellison. I think he's a divisive figure and he does not represent Minnesota well," Kearns said, adding that tackling crime is a top priority as he considers that race and others.

He was among the overwhelming majority of people polled who said they are confident votes in the upcoming midterm election will be counted accurately.

"There will be, I'm sure, some wild accusations thrown at the Secretary of State's Office about election integrity, election fraud, which just isn't the case," Kearns said. "[Simon] can certainly stand up to that scrutiny, and I think all Minnesotans can rest assured it's going to be a fair and honest election."

More than eight in 10 voters said they have high or moderate confidence in the election results. However, there was a clear divide between those who backed President Joe Biden in 2020 and those who voted for former President Donald Trump.

Nearly nine in 10 Biden voters said they had a "high amount" of confidence in the accuracy of the midterm election results. Among Trump voters, 20% had high confidence, around 42% had moderate confidence and a little less than a third had "not much" confidence.

Scott Keig, of Plymouth, is "voting straight Republican" this year. He said stories from other states raised concerns about the 2020 election results, including claims of "late night vote dumps" in Wisconsin. Fact checkers have debunked claims of fraud in those Wisconsin votes.

However, Keig said he doesn't think there were issues in Minnesota.

"I really don't have concerns about election fraud for the state of Minnesota," he said, adding, "I can't cite anything."

He said he doesn't know much about Crockett, the Republican secretary of state candidate.

"I plan on voting for her because she has an 'R' next to her name on that ballot. ... I don't have anything against Steve Simon," he said.

Crockett is pushing for tightened voting laws in the state and has made baseless allegations the 2020 election was "rigged."

"Every voter should feel confident their vote counted. 'Most Minnesotans' is not good enough. Then we can stop fighting about 'who won' and start solving big challenges like crime and inflation. For that, we need new leadership and better voting rules like Photo ID," Crockett said in a statement in response to the poll results.

Simon, who is seeking a third term, does not aim to change voting laws, although he is interested in the push to automatically register voters as they apply for a driver's license. His campaign spokeswoman Risikat Adesaogun stressed public confidence in elections in response to the poll results.

"Minnesotans vote at the highest rate in the country because they know our election system is fundamentally fair, honest, accurate, and secure," she said in a statement. "November is another opportunity for Minnesotans to strengthen the freedom to vote — and to reject dangerous conspiracy theories about our election system."

Ellen Frei, who lives in Karlstad near the Canadian border, is confident the nationwide results in the last presidential election results were accurate. "I don't buy that," she said of election conspiracies that circulated after 2020.

For her, ensuring the continuation of abortion access is key in November. She plans to support Democrats, including Ellison, in hopes they will defend abortion rights.

"The issue of abortion is being left up to the states," she said. "I'm hopeful the abortion issue gets resolved the way I would like."