Nov 2, 2022 - Politics

Crime and reform fuel race for Minneapolis' top prosecutor

Photo illustration of Martha Holton Dimick and Mary Moriarty.

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photos: Courtesy of both campaigns.

Voters in Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs will choose a new top prosecutor for the first time in more than a decade on Nov. 8.

  • Former Judge Martha Holton Dimick and former chief public defender Mary Moriarty are locked in a heated contest to succeed retiring Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman.

Why it matters: County attorneys handle criminal prosecutions, deciding which cases to pursue and what to charge. So the winner will play a crucial role in addressing crime in the state's most populous county.

Yes, and: The contest is the latest front in a broader battle over public safety and criminal justice after George Floyd's murder.

  • "Minneapolis has now become a microcosm on police reform, on crime," David Schultz, a political science professor at Hamline University, tells Axios. "The battle between Moriarty vs. Holton Dimick really captures that national debate."

Where they stand: Holton Dimick, who says reducing violent crime is her top priority, has pledged to take a tough stance when prosecuting repeat offenders. She says she supports diversion in cases involving veterans and drugs.

Moriarty also says she would prosecute violent cases, but that her "data-driven" approach would include more opportunities for rehabilitation, restorative justice and other alternatives to prison.

Endorsement watch: Moriarty secured the DFL Party endorsement and has the backing of progressive leaders such as Attorney General Keith Ellison and U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar. Singer John Legend has also backed her campaign.

Holton Dimick has support from law enforcement groups and moderate elected officials including Mayor Jacob Frey, the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association and DFL U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips.

State of play: The nonpartisan race for the open seat has been especially heated this year. Attacks have escalated since the rivals emerged from a crowded primary to snag the two spots on the November ballot.

  • Meanwhile, she's attacked Moriarty over alleged ties to “police abolitionists" and "defund the police" supporters.

The intrigue: Holton Dimick says she voted no on Question 2, the failed 2021 measure to dismantle and replace the Minneapolis Police Department. Moriarty has repeatedly declined to say how she voted.

What to watch: About one-third of Hennepin County voters live in Minneapolis, per The Star Tribune.

  • High turnout in more progressive enclaves of the city, including around the University of Minnesota, could help Moriarty, but winning over suburban voters will also be key to victory.

Go Deeper: Midterm elections 2022: Voting in Minnesota

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to note that Holton Dimick deactivated her law license, rather than letting it lapse.


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