By: Stuart Sudak

Mary Moriarty, the former Hennepin County chief public defender for six years, and Martha Holton Dimick, the former Fourth Judicial District judge, are vying to replace longtime Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.

The two garnered the most votes among seven candidates in the August primary, allowing them to move on to the Nov. 8 non-partisan election. Moriarty was the top vote-getter with 36% of the vote, while Holton Dimick was second with 18%.

Panel of Candidates

Moriarty, 58, the DFL-endorsed candidate, said her 31-year career as a public defender and her 2014 appointment as the county’s first female chief public defender provides her the experience to lead the office.

Holton Dimick, 68, endorsed by Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, decided to retire as a judge and run for county attorney in the wake of George Floyd’s murder and a rash of weekly shootings in her north Minneapolis neighborhood.

As an Aug. 15 MPR story noted, police reform and violent crime promise to be the central issues of the race. The county attorney’s primary job is to prosecute serious crimes, and this year crime, public safety and policing are at issue.

Moriarty told MPR that “tough on crime” rhetoric traditionally used by prosecutors has failed to create public safety for everyone. “Yes, we can have public safety, and we need reform to get public safety,” Moriarty said. “We need to implement the things that we know work using data and research. And if something isn’t working, we need a new approach.”

Holton Dimick struggled with how the criminal justice system was failing communities. She wanted to do more, but her role on the bench limited her ability to take widespread, meaningful action.

She told MPR that the narrative of “defund the police” after George Floyd’s murder sent the wrong message to the public and criminals.

“If you’re going to commit a violent, serious crime, and gun violence, then there are consequences and if you’re arrested and convicted you’re looking at a prison sentence,” Holton Dimick stated.