Primary will narrow field of seven candidates for Hennepin County prosecutor

Seven candidates vying for the Hennepin County prosecutor’s office make the first primary for the 21st century seat perhaps the most competitive ever.

Candidates range from retired judges and former public defenders to prosecutors and state legislators. As violent crime rises and scrutiny of police brutality remains heightened following the murder of George Floyd, each says their experience and vision are ideal.

Primary voters will narrow the field as they seek to replace incumbent county attorney Mike Freeman, the longest serving prosecutor in Hennepin County history. The first two voters in the primary will go to the general election. Whoever wins in November will make charging decisions related to a wide range of crimes while overseeing nearly 500 employees and a $65 million budget.

Martha Holton Dimick, retired Hennepin County District Judge, 69, from Minneapolis, said there are growing concerns about increasing gun violence in his north Minneapolis community. But one of the goals of her campaign, she said, was to go to the suburbs to tell residents that “we’re not ignoring them”.

A former community attorney under then-county attorney Amy Klobuchar, Dimick said she resigned from the judgeship she held for 10 years in order to run for county attorney.

“My neighbors and constituents in north Minneapolis think we need a police department, but we need it made up of really good police officers,” Dimick said. “And we would like to see reform and you can’t see reform if you don’t have a police department.”

Jarvis Jones, 63 of Edina, is the former president of the bars of Hennepin County and Minnesota. He called himself an underdog in the race, but said he had been one all his life.

“I was told that I couldn’t become a lawyer and become president of the Minnesota state bar association. I was told that you are not going to bring these lawyers statewide to follow continuing legal education courses on ethics and eliminating bias,” Jones said.

He said voters are being offered a “false choice between safe streets and social justice reform.” He said both can be done while treating people with dignity and respect. He said it starts by reducing the “oversized footprint of mass incarceration” of those who are homeless or who have committed petty crimes such as possession of marijuana.

Tad Jude, 70, of Maple Grove is a former Washington County judge, state legislator and county commissioner.

He said there must be a crackdown on crime while closing loopholes in the system for the mentally ill and minors. A former DFL state representative, Jude switched parties in 1992 and most recently sought GOP endorsement as state attorney general.

“It’s the same highway, but I’m running in a different lane,” Jude said. “A lot of the issues are the same: the homicide and carjacking issues and what we’re going to do about it.”

He said a “sense of anarchy pervaded a considerable part of Hennepin County”. He criticized what he called a “catch and release” approach to policing and to making Metro Transit “inviting and welcoming. We just need to take care of some of the basics.”

Mary Moriarty, 58, of Minneapolis, served as Hennepin County’s chief public defender for six years. While public safety is a key issue for the position, she said, the attorney’s office will also need to work with the state’s attorney general on reproductive rights.

Moriarty said the findings of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights investigation into the The Minneapolis Police Department reports that “Prosecutors sometimes have difficulty prosecuting violent crimes due to the videotaped behavior of some officers.”

“We need accountability for both community members and police officers,” she said, adding that “getting tough on crime” is not the way to ensure public safety.

“It’s assuming that if you scare people and assure them that you’re going to keep the bad guys away, it will protect them. … It hasn’t protected us, won’t protect us, and will continue to increase the racial disparities that we’ve seen .”

Paul Ostrow, 63, of Minneapolis is an assistant district attorney for Anoka County and former president of the Minneapolis City Council. When he was on the board, Ostrow said, there was broad consensus among his colleagues about public safety and police support.

“We didn’t have those suggesting we needed a smaller police department,” Ostrow said. All issues became nationalized and elected officials “moved from problem-solving politics to political theater,” he said.

Ostrow said a “tyranny of the minority” is currently jeopardizing public safety in the county, among other factors.

“We have two crises at the same time,” Ostrow said. “We have a crisis of violent crime and people’s concern for public safety. But at the same time, we have a crisis in terms of people’s faith in the criminal justice system.”

Saraswati Singh, 38, of Minneapolis is a Ramsey County District Attorney. She has worked for two federal judges, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Attorney General’s Office, and the Hennepin County District Court on violent crime cases.

“I was gaining experience on purpose to be more than qualified for this job,” she said.

“The community is ready to vote for women and people of color who have the skills and experience to do the job,” Singh said. “They don’t need that many years under their belt because people want someone who’s real.”

She wants to move prosecutors from the drug unit to the violent crimes unit to deal with a backlog of cases and racial inequities. She said a big part of her job is to gain the trust of witnesses and victims: “We can’t win at trial unless witnesses come to testify. And if they don’t trust us, we we can’t win.”

Ryan Winkler, 46, of Golden Valley, is Minnesota’s House Majority Leader. He said he was the only candidate with significant electoral leadership, with recent years battling the pandemic and embracing police reform in a divided government.

With a limited number of officers, Winkler said, all subway departments must coordinate their resources to solve crimes such as carjackings and gun violence.

“If people don’t feel safe in their homes, if they don’t feel safe personally, none of this will work to make this state more inclusive and accept everyone and share its opportunities with everyone. will be successful,” Winkler said. “If people don’t feel safe, they’re not open to working on justice for others. And so I see that as a condition, a precedent, and a necessary issue to be addressed in order to continue our gender work. of Minnesota that I grew up in. believe in.”

Denise W. Whigham