Aug 30, 2021 - News
Minnesota Democrats clash over Minneapolis measure to overhaul police
Illustration of the Democratic donkey logo, with police badges instead of stars, splitting in half.
Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

The measure on Minneapolis' November ballot to overhaul the police department is dividing Minnesota Democrats.

Driving the news: Three prominent elected Democrats — Gov. Tim Walz, U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar and U.S. Rep. Angie Craig — came out in opposition of the measure last week.

  • Their comments sparked backlash from Minneapolis progressives and supporters of the proposed charter amendment.
  • Some criticized Walz and Craig for weighing in when they live outside the city, noting that the measure is supported by a majority of council members and received support from 20,000 residents to qualify for the ballot.

Why it matters: The split reflects tension within the party over the best path forward for addressing issues of race and policing.

  • The public opposition also underscores some top Democrats' concerns that the Minneapolis measure and the broader movement to defund police could affect the party's 2022 midterm hopes.

Context: The charter amendment would dismantle MPD and replace it with a new division of public safety that could include traditional police officers along with other services.

  • The current mandatory minimum for sworn officers would be eliminated and the Minneapolis City Council would get more say over the public safety division's policies. A new city commissioner of public safety would report to both the council and the mayor.

The big picture: Nationally, Democrats are on edge about their standing with voters ahead of the 2022 midterms, especially in suburban swing districts crucial to their narrow majorities in Congress. Public safety is expected to be a flashpoint.

Zoom in: Here in Minnesota, Walz and races that will determine control of the state Legislature will also be on the ballot next year.

Between the lines: In 2020, law and order messages helped state Republicans win or hold seats in suburban and Greater Minnesota districts that will be targeted again next year.

  • Yes, but: Walz and the DFL Party rely heavily on deep-blue Minneapolis for votes, volunteers and campaign cash to fuel wins across the state. Alienating the local base could pose problems down the road.

What they're saying: Walz cited the "complexity" of the issue and said he's worried about running the police department "by committee,” per an interview with MPR News.

The other side: The progressive political group TakeAction MN defended the measure and blasted Walz for failing to pass more meaningful police reform on the state level.

  • "We deeply regret that [Walz] has not yet joined us in living up to his commitments to Minneapolis," a statement released late last week read.

Of note: The tiff follows a recent public spat between Minnesota's DFL chair and a Minneapolis party leader over an op-ed on the burning of the MPD's Third Precinct.

The bottom line: How the split impacts the charter vote is to be seen. But it's already clear the campaign here in Minneapolis will reverberate far beyond city lines — and the 2021 municipal election.

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