While most of the election drama has been focused on state and federal races, Hennepin County races have no shortage of interesting candidates and issues.
Much of the intrigue came from the DFL endorsing convention, where Angela Conley nearly secured the party endorsement over longtime incumbent Peter McLaughlin. While neither candidate ultimately received the necessary 60 percent votes for endorsement, Conley was the frontrunner with 57 percent of delegate votes.
District 4, which Conley is seeking to represent, covers parts of east and downtown Minneapolis, as well as the University of Minnesota campus and South Minneapolis between Interstate 35W and the Mississippi River. Going south, the district also covers the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and Fort Snelling.
Conley postulates that this area, which is home to many diverse communities, deserves a commissioner who represents the community on what is currently an all-White board.
Below is a breakdown of who will be running for seats in Hennepin County races — from board commissioners and attorney to sheriff elections.
Hennepin County Sheriff
Dave “Hutch” Hutchinson — DFL-Endorsed
A 15-year Metro Transit Police Department and leader on the department’s Northside Community Engagement Team, Hutch wants to bring his community-oriented ideas to the sheriff’s office. The focus of his campaign is respect and transparency for everyone as well as an increase in 21st-century policing, which includes rethinking how the sheriff’s department interacts with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Rich Stanek — Incumbent
Stanek’s experience in law enforcement goes back more than 30 years and includes time with the Minneapolis Police Department as commander of criminal investigations and commissioner of Public Safety and director of Homeland Security – two roles former Governor Tim Pawlenty appointed him to in 2003. Stanek also spent five years as a state legislator. If he is elected for the fourth time, he wants to focus on mental illness reform in jails, opioid abuse prevention, and community outreach.
District 2 County Commissioner
Irene Fernando — DFL-endorsed
Fernando is a Northside resident, Filipino American and former Bush Fellow. She says she wants to bring diversity, transparency and accountability to the board and increase community engagement.
Yang was the first Hmong ever elected to the Minneapolis City Council. He served one term before losing his seat to Jeremiah Ellison in the most recent council elections. Yang points to his previous experience as an elected official as qualification for his candidacy.
District 3 County Commissioner
Marion Greene — DFL-Endorsed
The one-term incumbent was first elected to the board in a 2014 special election and was reelected later that year. Her campaign focuses on immigration, an area in which she helped enforce a sheriff’s department requirement to inform those being booked in multiple languages of their right to not speak with ICE; on infrastructure; and on “greening” Hennepin County.
An activist with a hankering for directly impacting her community, the former co-chair of the National Black Women’s Health Project – Chicago, wants to bring her talents to the Hennepin County Board. Her platform, “bridging the gaps,” focuses on such issues as equity, criminal justice reform, affordable housing, environmental justice and equitable transit.
District 4 County Commissioner
Conley came closest to securing a party endorsement at the DFL endorsing convention. She wants to make the Hennepin County Board more diverse and representative of the community. Her racial equity and justice campaign focuses on such issues as amplifying community voices in decision-making and reducing inequities across all County departments.
Peter McLaughlin — Incumbent
McLaughlin has held his seat for nearly three decades. Despite being unable to secure the DFL endorsement earlier this year, he has other high profile endorsements from Governor Mark Dayton and Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey. Living-wage jobs, criminal justice reform, fair housing, and reducing disparities are among his top issues.
Hennepin County Attorney
Mike Freeman — Incumbent
Freeman has served a cumulative 19 years as county attorney. He also served in the State Senate from 1983-90. His campaign issues include addressing the opioid epidemic, protecting vulnerable adults, and juvenile justice reform.
Mark Haase — DFL-Endorsed
Citing the criminal justice system’s failure to help society’s most vulnerable, Haase said he put his energy into law and criminal justice policy. This led him to co-found the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition and work for the Council on Crime and Justice. His priorities include more equity for people returning to society after being incarcerated, increasing accountability and trust, and increasing fairness and equity in the criminal justice system.
Follow the MSR in weeks ahead for more election news and updates.