Hennepin elects first Black sheriff—and other election results

Photo by Henry Pan Dawanna Witt expressed gratitude after becoming the first Black sheriff in Hennepin County.

DFL keeps most executive and county seats and takes Legislature

It rained in Hennepin County on Tuesday as people headed to the polls, nervous about how issues such as public safety and abortion rights would be addressed over the next four years. If the results from the polls mean anything, the county’s voters decided they favored candidates with a more holistic approach to public safety moving forward. 

Early returns show one of those candidates, Dawanna Witt, will become Hennepin County’s first Black sheriff, defeating contender Joseph Banks

At Witt’s election night party, where roughly 100 people gathered inside a restaurant on St. Anthony Main, Witt appeared overjoyed, holding back tears as she thanked her campaign staff, supporters, and family members, while pledging to better engage community members and improve working conditions for her deputies.

“I look forward to being that sheriff that we need and deserve,” said Witt. “Nobody thrives in communities where they do not feel safe, and I will be the sheriff that Hennepin County needs to get us to a better, safer place so we all thrive.”

Among those at her election night party was her former social worker, Maggie Keating, who helped her through motherhood when Witt was an adolescent. “She’s worked really, really hard to get where she is,” said Keating. “She’s really committed to making things better and to [collaborate and work] with all people and listening to people and to hear what they want and what they’re interested in having.”

Meanwhile, Mary Moriarty became the first openly gay woman to hold the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. Moriarty, who defeated law-and-order former judge Martha Holton-Dimick, joins a slate of attorneys in Philadelphia and San Francisco seeking the county attorney position to bring progressive reforms and take a data-driven approach to prosecutions.

“I think this resounding victory tells us that the voters rejected the politics of fear and they want something new,” said Moriarty shortly after her victory speech. “They don’t want the failed policies of the past and they wanted a different kind of fair and just system.”

Photo by Henry Pan Workers of Gold Room bring sparkles for Mary Moriarty, who won the race for Hennepin County attorney.

Both Witt and Moriarty will be sworn into their new roles in January. But Moriarty says her work as county attorney starts now and involves reaching out to police chiefs and community groups.

Statewide, Gov. Tim Walz won reelection over Carver County physician Scott Jensen, who conceded the race in a midnight speech from a hotel banquet room in St. Louis Park. Steve Simon is poised to remain secretary of state, which oversees the elections. And although Julie Blaha won in the state auditor’s race and Keith Ellison prevailed in the attorney general’s race, both did so narrowly. 

The DFL also appears to have taken full control of the Legislature for the first time since 2014. 

Shanti Jones, a North Minneapolis resident, decided to vote to ensure her right to choose is protected. “Being a woman, I feel like we should always have a choice on what we do with our body,” said Jones shortly after voting for DFL candidates at her polling place in North Minneapolis. “Everything [the DFL] align[s] with is what I believe in.”

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