DFL state Rep. Lesch ends bid for attorney general

State Rep. John Lesch on Friday ended his campaign for Minnesota Attorney General and instead said he will seek re-election to his House seat.

Lesch, DFL-St. Paul, cited three reasons for the decision: his desire to spend time with his infant daughter, the fact that incumbent Lori Swanson has not announced whether she plans to vacate the office to run for governor, and his desire to help Democrats win control of the Minnesota House of Representatives.

“At this point in time, it makes more sense for DFLers to come together to build, rather than fight each other, and I intend to be a strong part of that process,” Lesch said in an email statement.

Lesch declined to comment beyond the statement.

Last month, Minnesota’s Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board leveled fines totaling $20,000 against Lesch and his campaign committee for a series of improper money transfers between 2010 and 2013 and failed to keep adequate records. Nearly $11,000 in campaign contributions ended up in Lesch’s personal accounts.

Jeff Sigurdson, executive director for the campaign finance board, said Lesch paid the fines at the end of August.

Lesch references the campaign spending findings in his departure statement but didn’t list it among his reason for exiting.

Former state Rep. Ryan Winker of Golden Valley and Rep. Debra Hilstrom of Brooklyn Center said they will seek the DFL nod for attorney general if Swanson moves on. A few others are considering it.

On the Republican side, private attorneys Doug Wardlow, a former state lawmaker, and Harry Niska are seeking their party’s nomination.