The last couple of years have not been kind to the law in Hennepin County.
Live and in a viral video, Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd before all the world, and generally, there was a lack of confidence in having County Attorney Mike Freeman prosecute the case.
Not surprisingly, there are now seven candidates for the Aug. 9 primary vote on the Hennepin County Attorney position. They are vying to replace Freeman, who’s stepping down after 24 years in the position.
Candidates in the nonpartisan race are Martha Holton Dimick, Jarvis Jones, Tad Jude, Mary Moriarty, Paul Ostrow, Saraswati Singh, and Ryan Winkler. The top two finishers in the primary will move on to the November general election.
All seven candidates participated in a June 28 League of Women Voters public forum at St. Louis Park City Hall.
Maintaining that she had more experience than her opponents, Dimick offered her life story from teen mother to lawyer to prosecutor to judge.
Moriarty, the DFL-endorsed candidate for Hennepin County Attorney, cited her 31-year career as a Hennepin County public defender and her 2014 appointment as Hennepin County’s first female chief public defender as an argument for her election.
Winkler, the Minnesota House Majority Leader, noted that he directs a large team of legislators and staff. He favors statewide recruitment and training models for policing rooted in community values.
Two candidates offered a law and order approach. Jude’s mantra is, “Let’s make crime illegal again.” Ostrow, a former Minneapolis City Council member, said that he deplores the “catch and release” of violent offenders.
At the same time, Jude said that body cameras provide transparency, and Ostrow criticized “coaching” as a disguise for disciplining police officers. Jude is a former Washington County judge who filed to run for Hennepin County attorney ahead of the May 31 filing deadline.
Jones cited a long career as a litigator and as a Black lawyer who had risen to the presidency of the Minnesota Bar Association. He said it is a “false choice” to say that we can either have safe streets or treat people fairly.
Singh has been a Ramsey County prosecutor, and she offered a three-point program: Public safety, racial equality, and accountability.
Moriarty bases her approach to law on emphasizing that “there are human beings in the courtroom” and feels that we often have to contend in law with people’s “unconscious bias.”
Winkler said it is necessary to have the community at the table and to create coalitions, as he has done in the legislature.
Regarding bail, Singh conceded that bail is in the Minnesota constitution, but she noted that the law has options other than bail.
Jones said that with all other reforms, we must “change the blind eye put on sexual assault.”
Jude lamented the closing of Minnesota’s facilities for the mentally ill.
Winkler declared that sex trafficking should be understood as posing a risk to the community’s safety. He also said that chemical dependency and mental illness are not handled well now. He praised the practice of “diversion,” having the court choose alternatives to traditional processing and sentencing.
Editor’s Note: The writer, EPLN contributor Frank Malley, is a DFL precinct chair.