Hennepin County voters will be picking a new Hennepin County Attorney this year. A few weeks ago, we asked our readers what they wanted to know about the candidates for the office. We sent a few of their questions to each of the campaigns and listed their answers below in the order in which we received them. Note: The Roe v. Wade question was asked before the decision was released, but we left the question as it appeared when we distributed it to the candidates.

The primary election takes place on August 9th. Here's some information on how to register to vote, check your registration status, or find your polling place. You can register to vote online on or before July 19th or register to vote in-person at your polling place on Election Day.

Saraswati Singh

Saraswati Singh

Candidate website: saraswatisingh.com 

Key endorsements: Run For Something, Moms Demand Action Candidate & Ramsey County Attorney John Choi

How do you plan to use your office to make the community safer?

My priorities are public safety, police accountability and racial equity. And all at the same time. The criminal justice system cannot fully deliver on justice and safety without addressing all three at the same time.

Public Safety: I will prioritize prosecuting violent offenses. 

I will focus resources on prosecuting murder, carjackings, sexual assault, drive-by-shootings, and domestic assault cases. 

Police Accountability: I will prioritize enforcing police accountability. 

Our community deserves to feel safe. No one should feel scared to call 911 when they need it. No one should have to worry that calling the police may make a situation more dangerous.

Racial Equity: I will prioritize addressing systemic racism.

Racism is a way of thinking that has existed throughout our shared American history. It exists in all parts of society, including the criminal justice system. 

Fair and Just Prosecution: We need to rebuild trust in the justice system.

We need to engage with the community to restore faith in the justice system and give some people faith for the first time. 

Privacy Rights: Abortion, Contraception, and LGBTQ.

I will ensure that our county resources are properly spent on prosecuting violent offenders, not prosecuting people for exercising control over their own bodies.

How do you describe your philosophy on using prosecutorial discretion to avoid pressing charges on certain low-level offenses and what criteria will you use to exercise it? 

I look at the evidence, what the law states & what’s the right thing to do. I’ll review the low-level drug policy so we’re not pursuing cases that aren’t a threat to public safety and the community, such as low-level marijuana possession and products. I’m also pro-choice. I will join fellow leaders across the county and choose not to use the U.S. Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade as a reason to prosecute people for obtaining an abortion or assisting with one. I will work to ensure that other privacy rights, such as contraception, interracial marriage, and gay marriage, similarly do not result in prosecution.

How important is experience in a courtroom and/or managing a team of lawyers for the position of County Attorney and what credentials do you have in both areas? 

The job of Hennepin County Attorney is to be top prosecutor for Minneapolis and the surrounding area. I'm an experienced prosecutor who handles murder, sexual assault, car theft cases and everything in between. I’ve worked at the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Legal Aid and Hennepin County itself. I’ve spent years fighting for justice in the courtroom. 

I have extensive experience overseeing attorneys. I was President of the American Constitution Society-Minnesota Lawyer Chapter where I oversaw the Board of Directors, Board of Advisors, and members which include prosecutors and defense attorneys. I set vision and managed raising funds, policy advocacy, recruitment and personnel issues. I built partnerships with the ACLU and diversity bar associations. I recruit, train and mentor attorneys and other legal professionals in my capacity as a prosecutor in the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office. 

I was appointed by Governor Walz to the Council of Asian Pacific Minnesotans which oversees a state agency and represents the Asian community in Minnesota which includes Asian lawyers. I was elected Treasurer and Vice Chair where I set vision, manage staff at state agency and manage the budget.

What policies and procedures will you instill into charging practices of the County Attorney’s office to offset the overrepresentation of people of color as criminal defendants? 

The Hennepin County Attorney has discretion on what and who to charge. I’ll ensure that my attorneys review the evidence, the law, and evaluate what the right thing to do is in each case. This process must be done fairly and in each instance, which will be part of the solution of addressing the overrepresentation of people of color as defendants. 

I will implement alternative pathways such as expanding treatment courts. Treatment courts address the issues underlying crime, help people find resources so they do not return to a life of crime, and cost far less than jails and prisons. I will use other legal tools that are already available to us to more effectively address low-level cases stemming from addiction, mental health, and poverty. I’ll track data to ensure we’re implementing justice fairly. 

If a 14 year-old is involved in a carjacking, what would your office do? 

Criminal law treats juveniles differently than adults and rightfully so in part due to their brain development. I will not implement a quota for juvenile jails. I will prioritize keeping kids out of custody and in a manner that benefits them and doesn’t risk public safety. 

How would you envision the relationship between your office and the Minneapolis Police Department? 

My vision for police in our society is to ensure they’re highly trained, trauma-informed, have EQ & IQ–which is especially important in sex trafficking and sexual assault cases–and know their community. They are integral members of our entire community and come from every part of our community. Officers will be held accountable by my office when there is abuse of power and criminality.

What policies will you pursue to help fight gun violence? 

I’ll work with law enforcement and groups like Everytown for Gun Safety and Mom Demand Action. I’ll also work with the state legislature to ensure we’re funding initiatives to prevent gun violence. 

If the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade, what will your office do to ensure a woman’s right to choose and receive the health care she desires in regards to sexual health and abortion access? [Note: This question was sent before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in late June]

I’m pro-choice and believe accessing healthcare & abortion is not a crime. 

As a woman and a person of color, the U.S. Supreme Court just took away my fundamental right to privacy, and there will likely be a further erosion of our human rights. That is unacceptable. As your next Hennepin County Attorney:

  • I will join fellow leaders across the county and choose not to use the U.S. Supreme Court opinion overturning Roe v. Wade as a reason to prosecute people for obtaining an abortion. I’ll use prosecutorial discretion so people making the most difficult decisions won’t be in jail simply for seeking healthcare.
  • I will work to ensure that other privacy rights, such as contraception, interracial marriage, and gay marriage, similarly do not result in prosecution.
  • I will ensure that our county resources are properly spent on prosecuting violent offenders, not persecuting people for exercising control over their own bodies.

Mary Moriarty

Mary Moriarty

Candidate website: MaryforHennepin.com

Key endorsements: Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL), Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, Senator Scott Dibble, Representative Jamie Long, House Public Safety Committee Chair Carlos Mariani, House Judiciary Committee Chair Jamie Becker-Finn, House Public Safety Committee Vice-Chair Cedrick Frazier, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Real Justice PAC, LGBTQ Victory Fund, LPAC, TakeAction Minnesota, OutFront Minnesota.

How do you plan to use your office to make the community safer? 

Safety for all means a criminal legal system where meaningful repair occurs. I have spent 31 years working within the Hennepin County criminal system and have seen the real-world impact that our criminal system can have. I will fight to make sure that victims of crime are listened to and respected, that our system prioritizes addressing the root causes of crime and that we approach children in our system as children, substance abuse and mental illness as the public health crises they are and police accountability as a moral imperative.

How do you describe your philosophy on using prosecutorial discretion to avoid pressing charges on certain low-level offenses and what criteria will you use to exercise it? 

Prosecutors should use their discretion to ensure that the limited resources of the criminal system are addressing real harm and not trapping people within the system for crimes of poverty. Living with substance abuse or mental health problems should not be a guarantee that a person becomes enmeshed in the criminal legal system and I will empower our line attorneys to ensure they have the ability to divert those cases or dismiss them when appropriate.

How important is experience in a courtroom and/or managing a team of lawyers for the position of County Attorney and what credentials do you have in both areas?

The Hennepin County Attorney’s office is the largest public law office in the State. Successful management of that office means having the ability, on the first day of the job, to supervise lawyers on criminal cases, and manage an enormous team of lawyers and their support staff. I have run the second largest public law office in the State, which under my leadership, was recognized by the National Center for State Courts as one of the best public defender offices in the country.  I have also tried numerous serious felony trials in Hennepin County and will be ready to lead on day one. 

What policies and procedures will you instill into charging practices of the County Attorney’s office to offset the overrepresentation of people of color as criminal defendants? 

The County Attorney’s office under my leadership will ensure that the data around every decision-making point will be evaluated to see where implicit bias is impacting those decisions. Our office will fight for more racially representative jury pools. By treating children accused of delinquent acts as children, our office can make sure that those children don’t become ensnared in the system and become long-term repeat offenders.

  • Evaluating incoming police traffic stops and arrests for racial disparity and using culturally-competent decision making to avoid perpetuating disparities. I will also work with law enforcement officers to make sure that stops are based on an objective race-neutral basis.
  • Collecting data and examining charging decisions involving “consent” to search individuals. In many instances, consent is not voluntary due to the unequal power dynamic between law enforcement officers and members of our community.
  • Expanding pre-charge diversion and working to assist and ease the expungements of unjust arrests, charges, and convictions.

If a 14 year-old is involved in a carjacking, what would your office do?

Fourteen-year-olds are impressionable children with developing brains that don’t belong in the adult criminal system. That child should stay in the juvenile system and receive appropriate services (mental health, substance use, trauma) to address the reason they are in the system and to take meaningful accountability for the harm they have caused to the victim of the carjacking.  

How would you envision the relationship between your office and the Minneapolis Police Department? 

The County Attorney is responsible for having a productive working relationship with the MPD while also holding them accountable. MPD wants the ability to engage in precharge diversion and I would support them having that discretion. I was chair of the Behavioral Health Committee in Hennepin County for six years and I worked with law enforcement to find alternatives to jail for those struggling with mental health.   I have worked with MPD and suburban police departments in Hennepin County on numerous other initiatives and that respectful and collegial relationship would continue. 

What policies will you pursue to help fight gun violence? 

We will aggressively pursue strategies based on data and research, not politics. Crime survivors deserve to have us approach violence in ways that respond to reality not anecdote, are proven to reduce violence, and that don’t oversimplify the problem or the solutions. That means immediate steps to protect people today and also, critically, long-term strategies that address the issues that make violence a possible choice – despite the possibility of prison – for so many.

We will partner with the Minneapolis Office of Violence Prevention on strategies that work to reduce violence. We will work across jurisdictional lines to share data and resources, explore what’s working, and build trust from communities that leaders are taking a serious approach to violence.

We will also develop a robust approach to public policy advocacy within the office. That advocacy will focus on educating the legislature and other lawmakers about the root causes of violence, push for data-driven solutions, and investments in the community that reduce recidivism and actually keep us all safe.

If the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade, what will your office do to ensure a woman’s right to choose and receive the health care she desires in regards to sexual health and abortion access? [Note: This question was sent before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in late June]
As of the writing of this response, it has only been 24 hours since Roe v. Wade was overturned. This flawed and politically motivated decision by the court will not sway my commitment to protect access to healthcare in Minnesota. In the fall of 2020, Attorney General Keith Ellison and Ramsey County Attorney John Choi joined with colleagues from around the country pledging to decline prosecutions of personal healthcare choices criminalized under laws that have already passed in some states — and which Minnesota Republicans would surely pass were they to take power at the State Capitol this fall.

If elected, I will take an oath to uphold both the U.S. Constitution and the Minnesota State constitution. The U.S. Supreme Court, in deciding Roe v. Wade, determined that every individual had a right to privacy which is “broad enough to encompass a woman's decision whether or not to terminate her pregnancy.” 

As County Attorney, I will do everything in my power to uphold the principles Roe stood for and to protect abortion access in Hennepin County. I will join with Attorneys Choi and Ellison in standing up for reproductive rights.

Paul Ostrow

Paul Ostrow

Candidate website: ostrowforhennepin.com

Key endorsements: Former U.S. Senator David Durenberger, Former Governor Arne Carlson, Tom Horner - Former Candidate for Governor, Abigail Cerra - Former

Chair of Police Oversight Commission, AJ Awed - 2021 Candidate for Mayor of Minneapolis, Anoka County Attorney Tony Palumbo, Armand Nelson - Former Mayor of Champlin, Minnesota.

How do you plan to use your office to make the community safer? 

Restoring public safety is my number one priority. As an experienced criminal prosecutor, I have partnered with law enforcement to hold offenders accountable and implement best practices for my entire career. I have developed a comprehensive 10-point crime plan to identify and to address current practices that must change to improve public safety. Alone among the candidates I have a specific plan called to end the practice of catching and immediately releasing repeat violent offenders and offenders violating probation and parole. I have also called for legislation to address our inadequate fentanyl laws, unfortunately opposed by Majority Leader Winkler.

I encourage all voters who are concerned with violent crime to read my plan and join the conversation on my website. I call for much greater transparency, increasing efforts to get stolen and illegal firearms off the streets, and fixing our broken juvenile justice system.

During this campaign, the crucial points in the plan to address violent crime have been widely embraced. My experience as a leading policy maker in Minneapolis coupled with a quarter-century of experience as a prosecutor uniquely position me to succeed in these efforts.

How do you describe your philosophy on using prosecutorial discretion to avoid pressing charges on certain low-level offenses and what criteria will you use to exercise it?

Prosecutorial discretion is a useful tool in a County Attorney’s Office if used wisely. It allows a prosecutor to decline charges when there are overriding interests of public policy, equity, or compassion.

With few exceptions I do not support the use of discretion to refuse to prosecute wide categories of offenses. (One exception is that I will not prosecute anyone for exercising their right to choose an abortion). I support diversion programs and other efforts to reduce collateral consequences for low-level offenses including drug possession and lower-level theft cases. I would not decline to prosecute cases involving drug trafficking and will hold anyone dealing in dangerous drugs such as fentanyl that are poisoning our kids accountable.

How important is experience in a courtroom and/or managing a team of lawyers for the position of County Attorney and what credentials do you have in both areas? 

I believe that to inspire confidence and truly lead a public law office it is essential to have experience in the courtroom and a broad knowledge of public law. As a veteran prosecutor and public attorney, I know the challenges and concerns of the people that I will lead. This experience, coupled with a collaborative leadership style, will allow me to immediately gain the respect and support of the office.

What policies and procedures will you instill into charging practices of the County Attorney’s office to offset the overrepresentation of people of color as criminal defendants? 

The most valuable tool for increasing trust in the County Attorney’s Office is greater transparency. I will make the Hennepin County Attorney a national leader in efforts to provide real-time information on a public dashboard as to our charging practices. We will hold ourselves accountable to make sure that charging practices, bail requests and plea negotiations are implemented without regard to race or ethnicity.

The over-representation of people of color as criminal defendants is sadly a direct result of racial gaps in education, home ownership, income, exposure to environmental harm and public services. As a community there is a moral imperative to do more to address these gaps.

If a 14-year-old is involved in a carjacking, what would your office do? 

First, I would work closely with the US Attorney’s Office to aggressively prosecute and bring to justice the adult leaders of carjacking rings that are recruiting children. Second, if a juvenile is directly involved in a crime of violence such as carjacking, I will advocate that the juvenile be placed in a secure detention facility for the protection of the public and the juvenile. Third, I will advocate for a state-of-the-art joint Hennepin County/Ramsey County detention facility with resources for trauma, chemical dependency and mental health, an idea unwisely abandoned several years ago. Finally, I would not support prosecuting the fourteen-year-old as an adult.

How would you envision the relationship between your office and the Minneapolis Police Department? 

A partnership of mutual accountability and trust between the County Attorney’s Office and law enforcement is critical. Extreme partisanship and political opportunism have led too many politicians to either vilify law enforcement or alternatively to ignore the problems and breach of trust by members of law enforcement. A prosecutor has a duty to protect the rights of the accused. I have publicly advocated for more complete disclosure of police discipline records to both the public and to the accused and recently co-presented on this issue with Abigail Cerra, former Chair of the Police Conduct Oversight Commission. I have announced the Transparency Solution, a proposal developed with law enforcement and police oversight leaders that would allow for the live streaming of police body cameras to a central location. Supervisors, mental health professionals, prosecutors and oversight and media, subject to nondisclosure agreements and privacy protections. would be able to witness police response in real time.

What policies will you pursue to help fight gun violence? 

I will aggressively prosecute violent offenders and drug trafficker’s ineligible to possess a firearm for weapons offenses. I will work with the US Attorney’s Office to target illegal and stolen firearms. Shot spotters in Minneapolis showing an alarming increase in the use of assault weapons in Minneapolis. I would specifically target unlawful possession of these weapons of war and would seek aggravated penalties for anyone unlawfully in possession of these weapons. Possession of a stolen firearm is a serious offense, and I will enforce strictly the laws relating to stolen weapons and weapons with serial numbers removed. I will forcefully advocate for stronger laws at the legislature, especially to target “ghost guns” and high-capacity magazines.

If the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade, what will your office do to ensure a woman’s right to choose and receive the health care she desires in regards to sexual health and abortion access? [Note: This question was sent before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in late June]

I will never prosecute anyone for exercising their right to choose or for receiving reproductive health care. I will not cooperate with any extradition of anyone for exercising those same rights elsewhere.

Martha Holton Dimick

Martha Holton Dimick

Candidate website: marthaforhennepin.com

Key endorsements: Minneapolis City Council Members Lisa Goodman, Latrisha Vetaw, and Michael Rainville, Minnetonka Mayor Brad Weirsum, Chief Public Defender Bill Ward, Former State Representatives Linda Slocum, Tom Berg and Joe Mullery, and numerous county attorneys, public defenders, former elected officials, and community leaders.

How do you plan to use your office to make the community safer? 

We will collaborate with police, community leaders, and citizens to investigate, charge, and convict violent and repeat offenders. I’ve done this work since the late ‘90s and it is my passion. I believe the county attorney’s office, much like Andy Luger’s US Attorney’s office is currently doing, needs to send a clear message about how we will prosecute violent crime cases.

We can have a direct impact on public safety as prosecutors. In the mid-2000s, there was an epidemic of drug-induced sexual assaults. The victims were usually traumatized and confused and did not remember the events due to retrograde amnesia. And because the drug was out of the victims’ bloodstream within 24 hours, there was no reliable way to prosecute those cases. We were losing them, setting free perpetrators who would repeat their crimes. One day, I read an article in the Star Tribune citing an expert who was studying the symptoms of someone drugged with GHB. I contacted that expert and worked with him on just about every “date rape” case that came to our office. From that day forward, we won those cases, preventing innumerable assaults in Minnesota and lowering the rate of these crimes.

How do you describe your philosophy on using prosecutorial discretion to avoid pressing charges on certain low-level offenses and what criteria will you use to exercise it? 

I’m focused on prosecuting violent and dangerous offenders. We must rehabilitate individuals that commit low-level offenses by using a matrix of psychiatric care, rehabilitation, and probation. We should also work to move these people through the system expeditiously, to make sure that their professional and personal lives are not destroyed as a result of a low-level offense.

Importantly, doing this work does not mean that we should signal to the public that we don’t care about low-level offenses like larceny because doing so encourages more of this type of crime. We should be both compassionate to people going through the system and effectively deter the behavior for the benefit of the community.

How important is experience in a courtroom and/or managing a team of lawyers for the position of County Attorney and what credentials do you have in both areas? 

It’s crucial to have this experience. I spent 13 years as a prosecutor, 10 years as a judge, and 4 years managing over 60 attorneys and staff in the Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office. Most importantly, the attorneys in my office were valued, respected, and heard.

Many of them are volunteering for my campaign.

In the courtroom, I have extensive trial experience as both a prosecutor and a judge. I was a successful trial attorney, prosecuting hundreds of cases including some very high-profile sexual assault cases. I also worked as the first community prosecutor in North Minneapolis starting in 1999, helping to connect the community with the prosecutor’s office. By growing our connections with community groups and residents, we helped create a network in North Minneapolis that reduced nuisance crime, juvenile crime, and eventually violent crime.

What policies and procedures will you instill into charging practices of the County Attorney’s office to offset the overrepresentation of people of color as criminal defendants? 

I have experienced and observed unequal treatment due to race all my life. It’s unacceptable. One significant area of inequity in Hennepin County right now is drug-related cases. The War on Drugs, in addition to being unsuccessful, has disproportionately affected Black people. While legalization is a legislative goal, I know that decriminalizing drug use and getting addicts into treatment is a more successful approach than trying to throw people in prison for using drugs. That approach will have the added benefit of reducing disparities. We can do better, and we will.

If a 14 year-old is involved in a carjacking, what would your office do? 

It depends on the circumstances, but juveniles who commit violent offenses generally need a timeout. Closing the Hennepin County Home School without an alternative was a mistake because we have a growing class of offenders (youth carjackers) that we are unable to place appropriately. When I get into the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office, I’m going to work with the county leadership to create a temporary facility to house juvenile offenders.

We need to get them through the system quickly so that they know there are consequences for their actions, and also try to ensure that their schooling and development are not destroyed by one offense. These young people need to get in front of a judge and hear how their offense affected the victim and know that if they re-offend, there will be more serious consequences.

How would you envision the relationship between your office and the Minneapolis Police Department? 

We must empower good officers and hold officers who violate civil rights accountable. I have a great relationship with Chief Arradondo and look forward to building a relationship with the next Minneapolis Police Chief.

The Minnesota Department of Human Rights report on the Minneapolis Police Department was shocking but not surprising to me. When I was a judge, I presided over a case where the officer mistreated a young, Black male quite severely. The police officer asked the young man if he was “trying to be another statistic” - that is, a young Black male killed by the police. After the ruling, I saved a DVD of the body camera footage and sent it to Chief Arradondo. A few weeks later, I ran into the chief at an event at the Urban League and made sure that he had seen the footage. I can be tough on bad officers because I maintain a good relationship with good officers. You have to be impartial and fair first and put your political agenda second.

What policies will you pursue to help fight gun violence? 

I’ve lived in North Minneapolis for over 20 years. From 2008 to 2010 our community had 23 homicides. Now, in the last 2 years, there have been over 90 homicides. Some of the victims have been innocent children caught in the crossfire. This is unacceptable and is my number one issue. As county attorney, I will do everything in my power to restore safety across Hennepin County.

Beyond swift and strict prosecution of gun crimes, I will collaborate with both law enforcement and community leaders to assemble a task force that targets, tracks, and prevents gun violence. This approach has been successful in the past, but it needs to be carried out fairly.

Additionally, I will work to restore the public’s faith in their local law enforcement. When community members know and trust the officers that protect them, the more willing and likely they are to report crimes and cooperate with investigations. I’ve done work to prevent gun violence as well as connecting the community with law enforcement since the ‘90s and plan on using that experience to fight gun violence when I am Hennepin County Attorney.

If the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade, what will your office do to ensure a woman’s right to choose and receive the health care she desires in regards to sexual health and abortion access? [Note: This question was sent before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in late June]

I got pregnant with my daughter when I was 18. I never considered getting an abortion because I was fortunate enough to have support around me: a stable family, a job working weekends, and public assistance to fill in the gaps. While I am very glad that I had my daughter, I will defend a woman's right to choose until I die. Being pro-choice is not about being pro-abortion for me. It's about recognizing that my circumstances are not the same as everyone else's and giving women the freedom to do what is right for them.

As Hennepin County Attorney, I will not prosecute women for exercising reproductive rights. If abortion remains legal in Minnesota and becomes illegal in other states, I will assign a subject-matter expert to deal with extradition cases related to abortions in the HCAO.

Jarvis Jones

Jarvis Jones

Candidate Website: jarvisjonesforhennepin.com

How do you plan to use your office to make the community safer? 

As a prosecutor, we must unapologetically acknowledge that crime is out of control. We must take back our streets, neighborhoods, and the downtown Minneapolis area. To ensure safer streets, I will refocus the office’s priorities and budget to focus on prosecuting, preventing, and reducing violent crime.

By working with key stakeholders in Hennepin County, I will establish a Violent Crime Initiative to identify and implement successful programs from around the country that have a proven record of reducing violent crime. My Office will also work with law enforcement to target repeat criminal offenders and reduce recidivism. Keeping all Hennepin County residents safe will be my number one priority.

For too long, we have been told that we must choose between safe streets and criminal justice reform. I’m running to prove that we can accomplish both. I believe that ALL residents must be treated with dignity, respect, and fairness - regardless of whether a resident lives in Minneapolis or Edina.

To build this trust, my first hire will be a Community-Engagement Liaison responsible for building bridges, especially in our more diverse communities. I will also conduct a “Listening Tour” to give a voice to those who have felt voiceless.

How do you describe your philosophy on using prosecutorial discretion to avoid pressing charges on certain low-level offenses and what criteria will you use to exercise it? 

As it relates to low-level, non-violent defendants, my office will reduce the “footprint” of mass incarnation by not over-criminalizing individuals with mental health issues, drug addictions, or the homeless. I am the only candidate with a written plan that brings together the key stakeholders in our criminal justice system to form a “Working Group on Low-Level, Non-Violent” Offenders to address this issue (See, my Long-Term Plan at jarvisjonesforhennepin.com).

My philosophy on prosecutorial discretion is quite simple: “the punishment shall fit the crime.” To ensure that the punishment fits the crime, my office will not “over-charge” nor “under-charge” the accused. If elected, my office will take affirmative steps to ensure that all offenders are held accountable and that the punishment fits the crime...nothing less, nothing more.

Specifically, I will require senior prosecutors in my office to conduct an early “good faith” screening of all proposed charges to ensure that the existing evidence supports a proposed charge. Prosecutors have a fundamental duty to not only ensure safe streets but also to ensure justice and fair treatment of all residents...in ALL neighborhoods.

How important is experience in a courtroom and/or managing a team of lawyers for the position of County Attorney and what credentials do you have in both areas? 

Experience in the courtroom and managing lawyers are very important skillsets. I have over 25 years of litigation and management experience. My litigation experience includes law firms and working for two Fortune 300 Minnesota companies. I spent over eight months in Puerto Rico handling one of the U.S.’s largest mass disaster cases, the San Juan Dupont Hotel fire involving 2,400 plaintiffs, 250 defendants and $1.8 billion in claims. I have also litigated large class-action lawsuits around the country.

My management experience includes being a former managing partner at one of the largest minority-owned law firms. I chaired and managed the attorneys in the firm’s Commercial insurance litigation practice. As a Vice-President at a Fortune 300 Company, I have managed hundreds of employees. As a senior manager, I have extensive experience and training in managing an office’s personnel issues, policies and procedures, budget, and human resources issues.

However, I believe another important skill the top prosecutor must have is the ability to build bridges between communities. As former president of the Minnesota Minority Lawyers Association and as the first black president of the Hennepin County and Minnesota State Bar Associations, I have been building bridges for over 25 years.

What policies and procedures will you instill into charging practices of the County Attorney’s office to offset the overrepresentation of people of color as criminal defendants? 

As a person of color growing up in the inner-city of Chicago, I know first-hand what it means to be stopped for simply “driving while black” and to also be treated by police as a “suspect” first for simply walking down the street in certain neighborhoods. Fortunately, I have also witnessed first-hand – through the eyes of my brother and sister as former police officers in the inner-city of Chicago – that the overwhelming majority of law enforcement officers are good hard-working men and women simply trying to keep us safe and go home safely to their families. It is time for a real change in leadership and vision.

To ensure fair treatment of ALL residents, if elected, here are a few examples of the changes my office will initiate: 1) Ensuring senior diverse hires that reflect the diversity of Hennepin County; 2) Bringing in the respected Vera Institute of Justice to closely examine all Office policies and procedures to ensure they do not inadvertently lead to disparate treatment of residents of color; 3) Requiring ongoing bias training for all prosecutors; and, 4) Ending the practice of striking residents of color from jury duty solely based on the pigment in their skin.

If a 14 year-old is involved in a carjacking, what would your office do? 

I will aggressively prosecute carjacking criminal offenses while, at the same time, bringing the understanding and sensitivity that we are dealing with a still-developing 14-year-old. With that said, I do not view carjacking as a “juvenile act.”

The solution is not to treat them like adults, but rather to reform the juvenile system to build in more accountability and consequences for serious offenses like carjacking. Put simply, our juvenile system has failed to evolve and incorporate innovative ideas. That’s where my Long-Term plan comes in.

In my Long-Term Plan, I convene a “Working Group on Juvenile Offenders.” This Working Group is charged with identifying and assessing data-based, proven alternative “accountability” programs from around the country for handling low-level, non-violent juvenile offender cases. There will also be a task force for more serious offenses. This working group is charged with assessing: juvenile system reform, expanding restorative justice and diversion programs, how we charge juveniles as adults, social services and community-based programs targeting juveniles, and alternative forms of “accountability” to incarceration programs.

How would you envision the relationship between your office and the Minneapolis Police Department? 

I envision a partnership built around “trust” and “accountability.” I do not believe that we can right the problems in this community without making every reasonable effort to work closely and partner with all key stakeholders in the criminal justice system, including law enforcement.

However, I also believe that all key stakeholders in the criminal justice system - including the police - should be held accountable for their actions. Without accountability, we will fail miserably at building trust and confidence in our justice system - especially in our more diverse neighborhoods. Without this trust, it will be that much harder to reduce crime not only in our troubled neighborhoods, but also in our surrounding communities.

My Short-Term Plan includes creating an Independent Investigation Crime Unit (“IICU”). The IICU’s mandate will be to investigate any government personnel that are directly involved in the criminal justice system that act under the “color of law” and are credibly accused of violating the law. Persons falling under the purview of IICU will include prosecutors, public defenders, Law Enforcement, the Judiciary, Corrections system personnel, Parole/Probate Officers, and others acting under the color of law in our criminal justice system.

What policies will you pursue to help fight gun violence? 

Every day, gun violence takes lives from communities all across the country in the form of suicides, unintentional shootings, mass shootings, and interpersonal conflicts that become fatal due to easy access to guns. While I support an individual’s constitutional right to lawfully own a firearm, I am a very strong supporter of reasonable and responsible gun control and safety.

Policies I support to reduce gun violence include:

1) Extreme risk protection order (ERPO): An extreme risk protection order is a civil remedy that allows family members or law enforcement to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from a person who poses an imminent risk of harm to themself or others.

2) Disarm All Domestic Abusers: Closing the domestic abuse loophole for gun owners including: a) Individuals convicted of domestic abuse or subject to a restraining order for abusing a dating partner; b) individuals convicted of stalking against an intimate partner; c) abusive individuals subject to a temporary restraining order.

3) Ban Assault Weapons: Self-explanatory.

4) Ban High-Capacity Ammunition Magazines: Self-explanatory.

5) Universal Background Check: End the deadly loophole in federal gun laws that still exempt unlicensed sellers from having to perform any background check before selling a firearm.

If the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade, what will your office do to ensure a woman’s right to choose and receive the health care she desires in regards to sexual health and abortion access? [Note: This question was sent before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in late June]

I have been pro-choice my entire life and I find it incredibly distasteful that other candidates in this race have said that they would prosecute women for exercising their fundamental right. My office will always fight for a woman's right to choose.

Ryan Winkler

Ryan Winkler

Candidate website: www.ryanwinkler.com

Key endorsements: Every Labor endorsements in the race – including the unions representing Minnesota public defenders and prosecution attorneys and staff in the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. I was also selected as a Gun Sense Candidate, and have been endorsed by many mayors and other local elected officials and legislators.

How do you plan to use your office to make the community safer? 

No one should feel unsafe in our communities. I will focus on victims and make sure that violent criminals are brought to justice. I am committed to building a justice system that serves everyone and provides safety to all Hennepin residents in an equitable way.  

How do you describe your philosophy on using prosecutorial discretion to avoid pressing charges on certain low-level offenses and what criteria will you use to exercise it?

The discretion prosecutors have can be a good tool for ensuring justice. Good leadership requires an obligation to listen to people who are doing the work and to take their feedback into account when making decisions to set them up to be more successful in the work they're doing. Under my leadership, prosecutorial discretion will be used to focus our resources on repeat and violent offenders. Low-level crimes like cannabis violations should not be charged. 

How important is experience in a courtroom and/or managing a team of lawyers for the position of County Attorney and what credentials do you have in both areas?

The role of Hennepin County Attorney is an elected leadership position. What we need in public safety right now is stronger leaders who can build coalitions across communities and get beyond divisions to make change. I have led the House of Representatives, which is similar in size and budget to the Hennepin County Attorney’s office, helping it become more reflective of our communities. That's what I offer as a candidate.

What policies and procedures will you instill into charging practices of the County Attorney’s office to offset the overrepresentation of people of color as criminal defendants? 

I will collaborate with community groups of color, families, clergy, agencies, and elected leaders from across Hennepin County to help identify and address the root causes that criminalize communities of color. I will also prioritize hiring diverse prosecutors who can help lessen charging and other discretional disparities in our criminal justice system.  

If a 14-year-old is involved in a carjacking, what would your office do? 

Juvenile offenders need accountability and help finding a better path forward in their lives. Juvenile prosecution needs to include non-incarceration alternatives where possible, and more intensive responses when needed. As County Attorney, I would focus on creating early intervention programs through partnership with a Youth Prevention Task Force in the Hennepin County Attorney’s office. The weight of finding rehabilitation resources cannot fall only on the family, the county and community must play an active role. 

How would you envision the relationship between your office and the Minneapolis Police Department? 

The work of the HCAO isn't possible without the investigative resources and cooperation of law enforcement. We need a working relationship, and it needs to be based on ethical conduct and mutual accountability. The Hennepin County Attorney’s office will work to hold everyone accountable for wrongful acts, including officers who abuse their power. I would also create an independent police accountability unit in the office to avoid conflicts of interest.

What policies will you pursue to help fight gun violence? 

As Majority Leader, I helped pass red flag and universal background check laws that were blocked by the GOP-led Senate. I will continue to advocate for these laws and will vigorously enforce the gun laws we already have, including laws requiring responsible gun ownership.  

If the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade, what will your office do to ensure a woman’s right to choose and receive the health care she desires in regards to sexual health and abortion access? [Note: This question was sent before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in late June]

The Supreme Court recently overturned Roe v. Wade. As the next Hennepin County Attorney, I will ensure that our county's resources are in no way used to prosecute women and doctors for making healthcare decisions. I will also strongly advocate for Hennepin County as a healthcare provider to ensure that the county can continue to provide reproductive health care for everyone.

Tad Jude

Tad Jude

Candidate website: www.judeforhennepin.com

How do you plan to use your office to make the community safer? 

My top priority as county attorney will be to make Hennepin County safer.  I will do this by making crime illegal again, holding violent criminals accountable, putting victims and public safety first.  Specific focus will be on prosecuting Fentanyl dealers, violent crime, carjacking cases and fixing our Juvenile Justice/mental health system gaps.  I will tackle the problem of stolen and illegal firearms on our streets.  I will bring professional management to the office.  The fundamental job of the county attorney is to follow the facts, the evidence and the law without fear or favor.  I will do this in a transparent and impartial manner.  The end result will be justice, not politics driving our criminal justice system.

How do you describe your philosophy on using prosecutorial discretion to avoid pressing charges on certain low-level offenses and what criteria will you use to exercise it?

"Low level" offenses are primarily prosecuted by city attorneys.  Prosecutorial discretion should be exercised with a focus on making victims and community whole if possible. There should be swift and sure consequence to crime - and diversion into a community justice circle or rehabilitation program available in appropriate cases.  Victims should have input.  Livability crimes are consequential to the community. Our transit, parks, schools, local businesses, churches and streets should be safe and inviting.  Sentence to serve has worked well as a constructive alternative to incarceration while maintaining parks, trails, streets and the broader community. Low level criminal activity has been known to mushroom into larger community problems.  Seemingly minor firework and motor vehicle violations may actually lead to bloodshed and chaos as Minneapolis experienced on the 4th of July.  Needles and waste on transit is unfortunately making it less safe for children, families and the mainstream worker.  Diversion, community justice circles, restorative justice, treatment programs and sentence-to-serve all have an appropriate role to play.

How important is experience in a courtroom and/or managing a team of lawyers for the position of County Attorney and what credentials do you have in both areas?

My experience uniquely qualifies me to be the next Hennepin County Attorney.  The past 11 years I've lived the courtroom as 10th district Judge.  This covered 8 counties in all types of criminal and civil trials, including countless jury trials.  I have a record of public service on the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners, the Hennepin County Law Library Board, the Minnesota Senate, the Minnesota House of Representatives, Chair of the full House Judiciary Committee and Chair of the Hennepin County Legislative Delegation. I have been a partner in two Hennepin County Law firms.  This broad and deep experience will serve the citizen taxpayers of Hennepin County in working with the legislative delegation and the County Board of Commissioners.  I will bring professional management to the office so that prosecutors can do their job.

What policies and procedures will you instill into charging practices of the County Attorney’s office to offset the overrepresentation of people of color as criminal defendants? 

Every citizen will be treated equally by the Hennepin County Attorney's office regardless of race, religion, sex, age or other protected status. The job of County Attorney is to follow the facts, the evidence and apply the law without fear or favor in an impartial manner.  Residents of North Minneapolis have the same right to safe streets and neighborhoods as those living in Edina or Maple Plain.  Victims and those who commit crime can expect Justice, not politics with me as Hennepin County Attorney.  Individual behavior will be transparently evaluated on a case by case basis.  Juries need to reflect the face of the county to achieve fair and impartial justice by one's peers.  I will work to insure that jurors not be struck based upon race, religion, sex, age or protected identity. 

If a 14-year-old is involved in a carjacking, what would your office do? 

This is a very real problem, yet your question poses a hypothetical case.  Carjackings are a serious problem for our community.  Victims are terrorized and our schools, churches, businesses all suffer.  There has been a 300% increase in carjackings over the last year in Minneapolis alone.  As to a 14 year old being involved I would need many more facts and context before making informed comments.  In general I have found older criminals sometimes prey upon juveniles to do the "dirty work" to take advantage of the juvenile criminal justice system.  Parents need to be involved from day one. Unfortunately that isn't always possible.  As a Judge I have met not only victims, but also many parents who demand that the courts have an appropriate, sure and swift consequence. Hennepin County desperately needs a program to fill the gap with the closure of the county home school. A juvenile's prior record, the use of a dangerous weapon and opportunity for rehabilitation need to be given appropriate weight. Every case is unique.

How would you envision the relationship between your office and the Minneapolis Police Department? 

As County Attorney I would expect the same standards from the Minneapolis Police Department as I would expect from the Sheriff, the State Patrol and all other Police Departments in Hennepin County.  I would work to ensure best practices in terms of evidence to support cases as in preparation for trial where there has to be proof beyond a reasonable doubt to a unanimous verdict of the jury.  Credible witnesses and evidence is necessary. This would include continuing education for both public safety and legal personnel.  Body and squad cameras have given greater transparency to police work, as has forensic advances. I would work to ensure that charging decisions are made in a timely and transparent manner consistent with best professional practices.  All requirements of the Police Officer Standards and Training Board and the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension would be strictly adhered to.  All search warrants would require solid supporting affidavits. I would work to build community trust.

What policies will you pursue to help fight gun violence? 

Firearm laws will be strictly enforced when I am County Attorney.  Applicable law is primarily determined at the federal and state level.  Today many existing gun laws are left unenforced and are often dropped in plea negotiations.  Criminals appear to understand this. This has resulted in countless illegal and stolen firearms.  Convicted felons in possession of illegal firearms will not get a free pass when I'm county attorney.  I will work diligently to get illegal and stolen firearms off of the street.

If the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade, what will your office do to ensure a woman’s right to choose and receive the health care she desires in regards to sexual health and abortion access?  

The Hennepin County Attorney's office was not a party in the Roe vs. Wade case.  Legal authorities generally agree that the recent overturning of Roe by the U.S. Supreme Court has no impact on existing Minnesota Law.  As county attorney I will apply the law in a professional and transparent manner to the facts and evidence.  This is another area of the law primarily determined at the state and federal level.