Candidates are lining up to replace longtime Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman this fall.
On Tuesday, Aug. 9, the current field of seven candidates will be reduced from seven to two when primary election votes are counted.
Freeman is leaving office at the end of the year. He served two different stints as Hennepin County Attorney, from 1991-1999 and again from 2007-2022.
He has served in that role through some of the most tumultuous events in the county’s history, including the murder of George Floyd and the civil unrest that followed that crime.
The county will hold a non-partisan primary for the election on Aug. 9 (early voting has already started), and the two top vote-getters in that primary will face each other in the Tuesday, Nov. 8, general election. Early voting in the general election will run from Sept. 23 to Nov. 7.
With a population of over 1.2 million, Hennepin County is the most populous county in Minnesota. The Hennepin County Attorney prosecutes all felony adult criminal cases, all cases involving juvenile offenders and has numerous other legal duties for the county.
Ryan Winkler, 47, is the majority leader in the Minnesota House of Representatives. He currently represents District 46A, resides in Golden Valley, is the father of three children, and has a bachelor’s degree in history from Harvard University and a law degree from the University Of Minnesota Law School.
Tad Jude, 70, is a former member of the Minnesota House of Representatives and the State Senate. He has been a Hennepin County commissioner and twice ran for U.S. Congress. A Minnesota District Court judge from 2011-2021, he attended college at the University of St. Thomas and law school at the William Mitchell College of Law.
Paul Ostrow, 63, is a prosecuting attorney in Anoka County. He has been on the Minneapolis City Council, is a longtime resident of Northeast Minneapolis, and has a law degree from the University of Minnesota.
Mary Moriarty, 58, has spent her career as a public defender in Hennepin County, serving as the county’s chief public defender from 2014-2020. She is an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, served as a legal analyst for MSNBC during the Derek Chauvin trial, and has a bachelor’s degree from Macalester College and a law degree from the University of Minnesota.
Saraswati Singh, 38, is currently a prosecutor in the adult trial division at the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office. Before Ramsey County, she worked in the Minnesota Attorney General’s office, the U.S. Attorney’s office in Minneapolis, Legal Aid, and as a staffer for two federal judges. She grew up in New York City, attended college at Colgate University, and has a law degree from the University of Minnesota Law School.
Martha Holton Dimick, 68, grew up in Milwaukee and attended Marquette University Law School. Holton Dimick has spent her legal career in Minneapolis. She worked in private law practice, for the Hennepin County Attorney, as deputy city attorney for Minneapolis, and as a Minnesota District Court Judge from 2012 until retiring earlier this year to run for Hennepin County Attorney.
Jarvis Jones, 63, grew up on the south side of Chicago, went to undergraduate school at St. Olaf College in Northfield, and obtained his law degree from the William Mitchell School of Law. He now primarily does pro bono work as a lawyer and makes a living through investments. He has 30 years of litigation experience and has been the president of the Minnesota Minority Lawyers Association, the Hennepin County Bar Association, and the Minnesota State Bar Association.
Candidate views on crime and police reform
The Hennepin County Attorney’s primary job is to prosecute serious crimes, and this year crime, public safety and policing are the main issues for most voters.
All of the candidates promise to combat the rising crime rate, get tough on violent crime and work toward more effective policing. However, a closer look at their campaign materials indicates they have very different views on how to get there.
Ryan Winkler states: “Attacks on affluent neighborhoods are grabbing the public attention, but we should not forget who has been most affected by crime – 87% of the victims of violent crime are people of color, and 70% are African American. … It’s time to end arguments about “defunding” or “abolishing” the police … the public … want constructive solutions to rising crime and an end to racist policies.”
Winkler would prioritize the prosecution of violent crime, not low-level drug offenses; support expungement programs; eliminate random traffic stops for black Minnesotans; promote bail reform; and enhance environmental justice. He also supports the legalization of cannabis for adult use.
Tad Jude takes a much more aggressive, pro-law enforcement tone. He talks of “a broken criminal system, further hijacked by the demands of the mob, whose reckless rhetoric to defund and dismantle police drove away many of our finest. Emboldened criminals more than ever before. … It’s time for true justice … that no longer surrenders to the demands and pressures of the mob who burn down our police precincts. Never again.”
Jude said he would make crime illegal again, fund the police, and treat them as partners in public safety. He would also prioritize victims over offenders.
Paul Ostrow has a 10-point plan which includes no more catch-and-release for violent offenders; empowering victims of violent crime by increasing the use of community-impact statements at sentencing hearings; getting stolen and illegal firearms off the streets; aggressive prosecution of carjackers; enhanced prosecution for fentanyl dealers; supporting lawful traffic and investigation stops; and transparency in charging decisions.
Mary Moriarty would enhance support of crime victims; demand more accountability for the police; support abortion rights by pledging not to prosecute personal healthcare choices; work to eliminate racial disparities; promote juvenile justice by implementing “effective and age-appropriate solutions for juvenile crime”; support bail reform; promote restorative justice; work to lessen the immigration consequences to criminal defendants; take a public health approach to substance abuse and mental health issues; and reform the probation system.
Saraswati Singh would prioritize the prosecution of violent offenses: murder, drive-by shootings, sexual assault, sex trafficking and domestic assault. She would also emphasize police accountability, claiming police must be held accountable for crimes they commit, prioritize addressing racism and systemic racism, promote restorative justice, particularly addiction and mental health treatment, and work to enhance abortion, contraception and LGBTQ rights.
Martha Holton Dimick would emphasize gun violence prevention; promote fair sentencing guidelines, particularly when prosecuting low-level offenses; work on establishing better connections between police with the communities they serve; reform police training; work on improving relations between prosecutors and the police; focus on taking fentanyl off the streets; reduce carjackings by taking youthful repeat offenders off the street; reform police training; and work on alternatives to incarceration particularly for substance use and possession.
Jarvis Jones would promote “public safety with accountability”; target career criminals and repeat offenders; create a family violence initiative; establish a hate and bias crimes unit; improve diversity in the county attorney office; end “no knock warrants”; end pre-textual traffic stops; try to reduce collateral immigration violations when prosecuting; promote bail reform; and reduce mass incarcerations.
Editor’s note: EPLN contributor Frank Farrell is a longtime Eden Prairie resident and an attorney for more than 40 years.
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