Voters in Hennepin County chose Mary Moriarty as their next county attorney by a wide margin Tuesday night, handing her a nearly 16 percentage point victory over opponent Martha Holton Dimick.
The race was an early call in a night of slow results around the state. Moriarty declared victory in a speech around 9:40 p.m., entering her election night watch party at a downtown Minneapolis restaurant to dozens of supporters chanting her name.
In her victory speech, Moriarty said that in the aftermath of Floyd’s murder, the focus needs to be on examining how the legal system has failed many. She said that while some tried to fearmonger over rising crime, voters chose change.
“You, the voters, have spoken — rejecting the failed policies of the past and demanding better of our legal system,” she said. “This is our time to forge a new path forward: one that keeps our communities safe while ending the cycles of mass incarceration that have deeply harmed communities of color and broken up too many families.”
Hennepin county attorney
In her victory speech, Moriarty said she will effectively prosecute violent crime while also targeting the root causes of that violence. She said she plans to work with schools, families and community members on preventing violence and reducing racial disparities in the county’s legal system.
“Together we will bring trauma-informed, data-driven and research-based strategies to our work which will help us address and reduce the racial disparities here that are among the worst in our nation,” she said.
The contest between Moriarty and Dimick for the seat left open by the retirement of longtime prosecutor Mike Freeman has taken on a larger focus than in previous years. In addition to the seat being open for the first time in many years, increased crime, coinciding with louder calls for police accountability and reform in the two years since George Floyd’s murder by an ex-officer and other high-profile police killings have given the race more attention among voters.
Moriarty, many progressive voters’ chosen candidate, was the county’s chief public defender for six years and worked in the office for 31 years. The victor in August’s primary by more than twice the votes of the runner-up, she won the support of U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison, among others.
Dimick, who came in second in the primary to advance to Tuesday’s general, was a Hennepin County prosecutor and Fourth Judicial District judge. U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips, Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey and Freeman all pledged their support for Dimick ahead of the election, touting her years of experience in the office.
The race was yet another showdown between the progressive and centrist wings of the metro’s Democratic voter base, which showed a similar divide earlier this year during the 5th District Congressional primary race between Rep. Ilhan Omar and Don Samuels, and in the 2021 Minneapolis election in both the mayoral race and a ballot initiative that would have replaced the police department.
Moriarty had raised more than $238,000 and has just over $48,000 on hand. Though Dimick outraised Moriarty by more than $70,000 – with more than $312,000 and having nearly $86,000 cash on hand – Moriarty saw much more outside spending on her behalf by outside groups trying to influence voters.
Those groups, which included national group ColorOfChangePAC and the PAC branch of ISAIAH, poured more than $136,000 in independent expenditures, or unlimited funds spent by groups seeking to influence the election that are not allowed to coordinate with the campaign, into the race, according to the most recent campaign finance filings, which cover the race through late October.
With all 397 Hennepin County precincts reporting, Moriarty had a considerable lead over Dimick, with 57.6% of votes to Dimick’s 41.8%
Hennepin County sheriff
Hennepin County has elected the first Black sheriff in its history, with Dawanna Witt trouncing Joseph Banks on Tuesday, with 64% of votes as of publication, compared to 35.4% for Banks, for the county’s top cop job.
Witt, a major in the Hennepin County Sheriff’s office, and Banks, a bail agent and former chief of three southern Minnesota police departments, were vying for an open seat left by current Sheriff David Hutchinson after he went on medical leave after pleading guilty for misdemeanor drunken driving.
Witt had outpaced Banks in donations by more than $50,000, raising more than $66,000 with a little more than $16,000 cash on hand, according to fundraising reports released ahead of the election. Banks – who has about $430 on hand – had raised more than $12,000, much of which came from donations he made to his own campaign.