Olmsted County Attorney candidates face off two weeks ahead of election

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Voters in Olmsted County will see the candidates for Olmsted County Attorney on the ballot in just two weeks.

Incumbent Mark Ostrem and challenger Karen MacLaughlin faced off in a debate on Tuesday at 125 Live in Rochester, hosted by the Olmsted County Bar Association.

Ostrem has held the position of Olmsted County Attorney for 16 years.

MacLaughlin is a trial attorney of 19 years and a current Rochester Public School board member.

“I will say I’m offended that Ms. MacLaughlin has been walking around our neighborhoods telling my community members that they should vote for her because I’m going to retire. That’s offensive,” Ostrem said. “A friend of mine came up to me a couple of weeks ago and told me that somebody knocked on her door. It was Karen and told my friend that they should vote for her because I was going to retire.”

MacLaughlin said she feels strongly that it’s time for a change in the county attorney’s office.

“That Mr. Ostrem sat in this room four years ago and said that was his last run. And here we are running again,” she said.

Ostrem addressed that comment after the debate.

“And as to this comment that I said four years ago (that) I wasn’t going to run again, I’ve never said that. I’ve never even told my wife that,” he said.

Ostrem said his main priority as county attorney is addressing gun violence in the community. He also emphasized the importance of safety in schools and keeping kids in schools as well as getting our judicial system caught up from falling behind during the pandemic. He added he is committed to finishing out his career as Olmsted County Attorney.

“I don’t think that he answered the question about whether he was going to fulfill his term… That’s very concerning to me,” MacLaughlin said.

MacLaughlin said if elected, her priorities are to support safe communities for everyone, especially the BIPOC and immigrant communities. She said she would also proactively reduce gun violence, not just address it after it happens, particularly in the context of domestic violence.

“I think it’s very important to focus on fairness and building trust with the community and I think that those things are very lacking with Mr. Ostrem’s office,” she said.

MacLaughlin said her experiences both as an attorney and a school board member make her more fit for the job.

“I believe that that experience has very much prepared me for this role and not only prepared me as a candidate but also as a leader in the community,” she said.