Primary Elections 2022: Hennepin County Sheriff

I’m starting with an easy one — though, hmm, how should I say this, this is one of those races that feels jinxed for me personally because I strongly supported Dave Hutchinson four years ago and while I do in fact think he was the lesser available evil compared to having Stanek in office from 2018 through 2022, the guy also drove while absolutely hammered, crashed his car while going 126 mph, and lied to try to cover it up. (Modern cars are a wonder of technology.) (And then yesterday another story about Hutch hit, which was about him appearing to engage in a pattern of deliberately overspending because the county was garnishing his paychecks to cover the cost of the car he crashed while shitfaced, and when I went just now to look for that link I found a NEW story about him sending racist and homophobic texts to subordinates.)

Anyway. In 2022, there are three people running, two of whom will advance to the general.

Jai Hanson
Dawanna Witt
Joseph Banks

Jai Hanson

Jai Hanson is a Bloomington police officer who was adopted from India as a child. Two minutes of reading his website made it pretty goddamn clear why I don’t think anyone should support him.

Hanson was disgusted by the video of officer Derek Chauvin kneeling on Floyd’s neck, and he was disgusted at the destruction.

THESE TWO THINGS ARE NOT THE SAME AND EQUATING THEM IS HORRIFYING. (And yes, this framing absolutely suggests that these are two things of equal weight.)

Later, he drove to his parents’ house, and in their front window he saw a big sign. “SAY THEIR NAMES,” it read, listing people killed by police. Anti-police sentiment was everywhere. Now it felt like it was in his childhood home.

And Jai Hanson was furious. […] The sign felt flippant and anti-law enforcement. He drove off in a huff. Later, he wrote his dad an e-mail that the sign deeply offended him. In 14 years in law enforcement, he’d never heard his parents express sadness about a police officer getting killed.

His snit over this sign was less than a week after George Floyd was murdered. And regarding memorializing police officers: there are multiple big stone memorials on the capitol grounds and another one at the airport and that’s off the top of my head, I’m pretty sure there are others around the area. When Ron Ryan Jr. and Timothy Jones (and Jones’ dog) were murdered in 1994, the city mourned and their murderer was swiftly sentenced to life in prison.

And honestly: this is all I really need to know about Jai. He’s a police officer who immediately made a crime committed by a police officer all about his hurt feelings as a police officer. I would absolutely not vote for him, regardless of his other positions.

Today I saw a news story about a Somali woman who was named teacher of the year in 2020 who is now leaving teaching. One of the incidents mentioned in her reasons why: after she read the picture book Something Happened In My Town, which was written specifically to help young kids process the trauma of high-profile police violence happening in their community, Jai condemned this on his blog, inciting a huge amount of harassment. (And also, you know, complaining about reading a book that was written to help kids process trauma that the kids in our community experienced and his rationale for his bitching about this was, “it’ll teach them to be afraid of police.” Jai, kids in the Twin Cities are afraid of police because a police officer murdered a man in front of cameras while three other cops stood by, and then another police officer murdered a man because apparently she couldn’t tell her taser from her sidearm, and then a SWAT team murdered a man after breaking into his house in the middle of the night. Kids in the Twin Cities are afraid of police because the police have demonstrated that they’re really fucking dangerous to the community.

Dawanna Witt

Dawanna Witt works in the Sheriff’s office; she’s a Black woman who’s spent 22 years working in law enforcement. Her website emphasizes public safety and restoring trust. She’s endorsed by the DFL and I think all the DFL electeds who have endorsed in this race have endorsed Dawanna.

Worth noting for those who want someone law-and-order-y — Dawanna is endorsed by the DFL Senior Caucus, LaTrisha Vetaw, and Dean Phillips. She starts out by talking about prioritizing violent crime. So like: you’ll get that. There’s no option that isn’t that. With Dawanna you can have that but without the whining and “actually, it’s police officers who are the real victims” bullshit of Jai.

Joseph Banks

Two weeks ago, a friend noticed that Joseph Banks had an events calendar on his website that had zero Joseph Banks events but was displaying all upcoming Yankees games. He’s now fixed that, but the “Become a Volunteer!” button on his Get Involved page says, “I’m a paragraph. Click here to add your own text and edit me. It’s easy. Just click “Edit Text” or double click me to add your own content and make changes to the font. I’m a great place for you to tell a story and let your users know a little more about you.”

Joseph ran four years ago and my main comment on him at the time was that he hadn’t seemed to get much traction. That seems to be true this time, as well. I watched the LWV forum for Sheriff candidates and Joseph seems smart and committed, but so does Dawanna.

I would vote for Dawanna in the primary and I would vote for whoever isn’t Jai Hanson in the general election. Fingers crossed that the next Hennepin County Sheriff is smart enough to stay at the hotel instead of driving home shitfaced and also won’t be a racist Trump supporter! Seriously the lowest of low bars. The absolute lowest.


In addition to writing political commentary, I write science fiction and fantasy. My book that came out in April 2021, Chaos on CatNet, takes place in a future Minneapolis. It’s a sequel to Catfishing on CatNet and signed copies of both books are usually available from Dreamhaven. You will also be able to get them from Uncle Hugo’s when it reopens at 2716 E 31st St! (and maybe by mail order now? I’m not sure how much mail order Don is doing while getting ready to re-open.)

I do not have a Patreon or Ko-Fi, but you can make a donation to encourage my work! I get a lot of satisfaction watching fundraisers I highlight getting funded (or, in the case of the Movement Voter fundraiser, continuing to raise money past their goal). I explained back in May why I’m fundraising for the Movement Voter PAC and that fundraiser is still active. (Also, I owe some embarrassing readings of my juvenalia to the Internet.)

I also went looking and found two DonorsChoose fundraisers for classrooms at Bethune Community School in North Minneapolis: math manipulatives for pre-K students (this is such a good idea) and a nice book organizer for a first-grade classroom where the shelving is coming apart.

Election 2018: Hennepin County Commissioner, District 2

(By request.)

The incumbent commissioner, Linda Higgins, is not running for re-election. District 2 includes North and Northeast Minneapolis but also Golden Valley, Medicine Lake, Plymouth, and St. Anthony. (You can find a map of all the districts here.)

On the ballot:

Blong Yang
Irene Fernando (DFL-endorsed)

Continue reading

Election 2018: Hennepin County Sheriff

I wrote about this race in the primary, but I emphasized what an absolute asshole Rich Stanek is, so I wanted to briefly revisit this race and talk a little about what makes Dave Hutch so cool.

Rich Stanek (who’s an asshole) is a Trump supporter and an ICE lackey. Dave Hutch wants to make sure that anyone, regardless of where they were born, can come to law enforcement if they’re a victim of or witness to a crime, and if they’re suspected of a crime, he wants them treated like anyone else.

(Here’s a really excellent article that talks in more detail about the Sheriff’s role in immigration policy enforcement, and how Dave Hutch will be different from Rich Stanek.)

Hutch wants to require training on mental health crises and de-escalation. He wants transparency in government (Stanek is openly contemptuous of FOIA requests.) He would be the first openly gay Sheriff in Minnesota. He has decades of experience in law enforcement and is also the son of a police officer, so if you’re looking at all this thinking “yes, but can he do the actual job here,” the answer is definitely.

If you live in Hennepin County, please vote for Dave Hutch and talk to your friends about this race. Hennepin is an overwhelmingly DFL county, but a lot of people don’t know a ton about the Sheriff’s office or Rich Stanek. Make sure they know why they should vote for Dave Hutch!

EDITED 10/20 TO ADD: a Facebook Live video of a Stanek fundraiser (which he’s at). He poses with “MAGA-Woman,” there are two people cosplaying Trump, it’s really … something.

Election 2018: Hennepin County Attorney

The Hennepin County Attorney does a bunch of stuff but here’s the aspect of the job that tends to get the most attention these days: this is the person who decides whether to file charges against the cops when they shoot someone.

Currently, the job is held by Mike Freeman, who did file charges against Mohamed Noor for shooting Justine Damond, but did not file charges against the officers who shot Jamar Clark or Thurman Blevins. His opponent is Mark Haase. More below the cut.

On the ballot:

Mike Freeman (Incumbent)
Mark Haase (DFL-endorsed)

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Election 2018: Hennepin County Commissioner, District 4

Peter McLaughlin has been the District 4 Hennepin County Commissioner for approximately forever. (Okay, found it: since 1991. I was starting college in 1991 and didn’t move to Minneapolis until 1995.)

I have a long-running sense of not liking him very much, although in part this is because he was a close ally of Sharon Sayles Belton, who I didn’t like (I really disliked the projects the city undertook during her administration), although she got replaced by RT Rybak seventeen years ago now, so this is a somewhat outdated grudge.

My main ongoing grudge against Peter McLaughlin is that he is a big fan of spending public money on sports facilities. He helped pass a county-wide tax to build the Twins ballpark, and to circumvent the law saying they were supposed to hold a referendum on it. He was less enthusiastic about the county funding the Vikings Stadium, but had this hilarious/infuriating line about why referendums were bad:

A referendum “doesn’t make a bad idea any better,” said Hennepin County Commissioner Peter McLaughlin, who voted for Target Field but dislikes the Vikings stadium proposal. “I don’t believe in government by referendum. It lets elected officials off the hook for making judgments about these things.”

The point of a referendum isn’t to make “bad ideas better,” it’s to make it possible for people to shoot down the plan of spending their money on sports facilities. It’s not like Minneapolis voters shoot down every referendum that comes their way; they faithfully pass school-levy referendums. People want referendums on sports facilities because it appears to be the only possible way to keep politicians from cramming them down our throats over and over and over.

More recently, he tried to swing a deal for the soccer stadium whereby the “excess capacity” of the Target Field sales tax would go to pay for the soccer stadium, instead. What that means: currently, there is a 0.15% sales tax collected in Hennepin County. Out of that money, $5 million/year goes to libraries, youth and sports programs, and long-term ballpark maintenance. The rest goes to pay off the $350 million in bonds that were sold to fund the construction of Target Field. At the moment, that tax is collecting quite a bit more than they’d expected, allowing the county to pay off the debt early. (They’d planned on a 30-year repayment plan, and they’re going to be done in 20 years. At which point the tax is supposed to just end.)

I mean, there are a couple of ways to look at this. I tend to think, “no, you assholes, pay off the motherfucking debt and dump the tax we never agreed to.” It’s not entirely unreasonable to say, “hey, we’ve planned for that thirty-year term, so let’s just take the extra money and spend it on civic improvements,” but I don’t then say, “…like yet another sports facility!!!!” 

As it happens, that plan fell through and the stadium was built in St. Paul.

On the plus side, Peter is a big fan of bike paths and transit. I am also a fan of bike paths and transit, and I particularly love the Greenway, which he was one of the movers-and-shakers for.

But this is the first time in years that Peter has had any sorts of real opponent; last time, the only person running against him was Captain Jack Sparrow. So I’m excited at the possibility of someone who likes bike paths and transit, and is not and endless booster of circumventing laws about referendums to build sports stadiums. (If you’re a sports stadiums kind of voter, Peter’s your guy, but one of the bizarre things about the whole “yeah, let’s spent a gazillion dollars building yet another sportsball palace!” thing is that public sentiment runs so strongly against these projects!)

Here’s who’s on the ballot:

Peter McLaughlin
Angela Conley
Megan Kuhl-Stennes

Continue reading

Election 2018: Hennepin County Sheriff

One of those small silver linings to the hurricane of storm clouds that is the current presidential administration: a lot more Hennepin County residents realized in the last year what a flaming dick Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek is.

In 2016, he sent deputies out to North Dakota to the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. He notifies ICE when foreign-born people get booked into the jail.  He’s a Trump fan and lackey.

I’m not sure if it’s fair to blame him for the fact that his son downloaded child porn on a cell phone connected to the Stanek campaign.

In his favor, he punched a Nazi sympathizer while in Reno. I mean, credit where credit is due.

But it’s not like Stanek being an asshole is new news. (Here’s what I wrote about him in 2014 — the quick summary involves use of the n-word, a road-rage incident where he beat up another driver, and an arrest of someone for being on a public sidewalk because she’s previously annoyed him. That road rage incident was back in 1989, but I’m struck by the fact that he got into another fist fight in March, which suggests he’s still got a volatile temper, even if the March dude, as noted above, probably deserved to be punched a few more times.)

Here’s who’s on the primary ballot:

Dave Hutch
Rich Stanek
Joseph Banks

Joseph Banks is hard to Google because he shares a name with a fancy menswear store. He appears to be a decent guy with law-enforcement experience who wouldn’t be Rich Stanek, but he hasn’t gotten a ton of traction.

Dave Hutch (also a decent guy with law-enforcement experience who isn’t Rich Stanek) has the DFL endorsement; I think he’s (maybe) got a shot at beating Stanek, if people actually vote in this race:

The fact is, only about 347,000 people voted in the 2014 sheriff’s race. Stanek snagged 68 percent of those votes. This was after the majority of Stanek’s own deputies endorsed his opponent, Eddie Frizell.

The rub: About 714,000 people were registered to vote at 7 a.m. that morning.

In Hennepin County in 2016, 429,288 people voted for Hillary Clinton; 191,770 voted for Donald Trump. Even with the suburbs, Hennepin County swings very, very blue. But most people, even the ones who vote in the midterms, don’t vote in this race.

One note: I think his name is actually Dave Hutchinson? So on the ballot he might be Dave Hutch, Dave Hutchinson, or Dave “Hutch” Hutchinson, which was probably what he was going for when he filled out the forms.

Vote for Dave Hutch in the primary, and talk to your friends about voting for him, too (especially once he gets past the primary, talk to them about voting for him in the general). Tell them why they shouldn’t vote for Stanek, and why they should vote for Hutch. There are thousands of people in Minneapolis who’d vote for Stanek’s opponent if they knew more about Stanek; maybe enough to swing this race.

 

 

 

Election 2016 – Judicial Races -4th District Court 45 and 4th District Court 37

When I looked at the candidate lists yesterday I missed the fact that there were in fact two contested judicial races for district courts in Hennepin County.

4th District Court 37

Carolina A. Lamas (incumbent)
Luke Kyper Bellville

4th District Court 45

Paul R. Scoggin (incumbent)
Chris Ritts

I’ll do the 4th District Court 37 first.

Carolina Lamas

Judge Carolina Lamas is a relatively recent appointee — she came to the bench in 2014, appointed by Governor Dayton. She’s relatively young, having graduated from law school in 2003. (Not scandalously young. But probably younger than me.) She’s an immigrant from Peru and prior to becoming a judge, she worked as a public defender and for a nonprofit that serves indigent people who’ve been charged with felonies.

Looking for news stories about her turned up a piece about Hennepin County judges doing free weddings for people on Valentine’s Day this year, and she set a typical (rather than an extremely high) bail for someone back in February. Searching on the guy’s name turned up no additional articles, so I’m not sure whether his trial is still pending or what. (Also, protecting the public is not supposed to be what bail is for; you’re innocent until proven guilty. You’re only supposed to be denied bail, or given an extremely high bail, if you’re a flight risk, at least that’s the theory as I understand it.)

Anyway, overall she seems to be doing a fine job.

Luke Kyper Bellville

If you visit Luke Bellville’s site you’ll probably have the same first thought I had, which is, “wait…Tripod still exists?”

Luke appears to have a family and enjoy sitting in grassy settings. He emphasizes his deep local roots, which I initially read as a fairly standard iteration of Minnesota parochialism (there are people in both Minneapolis and St. Paul who will brag about how they never ever go to the other city, which always makes me want to speculate that they’re secretly a vampire who can’t cross water) but having read up on Carolina Lamas I’m now wondering if he’s trying to channel anti-immigrant sentiment. He also says, “I, having grown up in the inner-city of Minneapolis, have little tolerance for violent crimes, and feel they are the number one thing in the modern era that needs addressing.” So possibly he’s mad about the low bail or that one guy, or again, this actually sounds a little dogwhistle-y.

He does not even hint at any actual qualifications to work as a judge, like having gone to law school. Which is weird, because he appears to indeed be a lawyer. I found his LinkedIn, which adds another odd thing to the mix — he talks about attending the U of  M Twin Cities on both his “hire me to be your lawyer” page and his “vote for me for judge” page but he got his JD in North Dakota. Which is a perfectly reasonable place to get a law degree so why he wants to cover up this fact is bizarre. (And, I mean, on his “vote for me” page, he gets really detailed: “I am a fourth generation Minnesotan who grew up on the West Bank in Minneapolis. I attended Marcy Open Elementary school when it was still on Como Avenue, then Anderson Junior High off Lake Street, and South High School off Cedar Avenue. After this I graduated from the University of Minnesota on the Twin Cities Campus.” Like, you considered it important that you attended Marcy Open but you didn’t want to tell us where you went to law school?)

Anyway, the tl;dr here is that this guy is a flake. Vote for Carolina Lamas.

On to Court 45.

4th District Court 45

Paul R. Scoggin (incumbent)

So two years ago, Paul Scoggin was running against Bridget Ann Sullivan for an open seat and I wrote about it. I thought they both sounded like strong candidates who’d make excellent judges. And in fact Sullivan won the election but Scoggin was appointed to fill an opening the following year.

I went looking for news articles about Scoggin and didn’t turn up anything about his work as a judge. Interestingly, though, I did find a news article from 2013 about a criminal case that he prosecuted and his opponent in the race defended: Minneapolis man who wrecked Lamborghini gets six months in workhouse. The case involved this idiot who was hired to repair, then store, a Lamborghini. (Presumably for the winter months.) He took it for an unauthorized drunken joyride and wrecked it. Then he tried to bill it to insurance and lied about the accident. Honestly, click and read, the whole story is sort of hilarious in an “omg what an idiot” kind of way. (I’ll note that I did some follow-up googling fascinatingly enough, his auto shop is not only still in business but doing fine. He must be one hell of a mechanic. It appears that he committed himself to sobriety and stuck with it, so hurray for the wake-up call he got working as I’m sure everyone hoped.)

Anyway, both Chris Ritts and Paul Scoggin were doing their jobs as expected in that case — I don’t think either did anything wrong. Reading the article I felt a bit more sympathy for the prosecutor, but there’s nothing wrong with defending someone guilty, I mean that’s solidly part of the job of a defense lawyer. I’m not sure how good a deal Chris got for his client — this was a plea deal — but when a guy digs himself that sort of ten-foot pit before he calls you, there’s only so much you can do. (Oh, wait. Plus he had priors, according to the Strib article. He must be an amazing mechanic to still be in business.)

Chris Ritts

Two years ago, Chris Ritts was running against Bev Benson for an open seat and I wrote about it. I thought Bev sounded a little too cozy with the police but I thought Chris sounded super flaky and not overly bright.

His website is less embarrassing now, though it definitely telegraphs “campaign committee of one.”

Searching for news stories on him turns up a couple of different stories about his work as an attorney. He defended a Maple Grove City Council Rep who stole money from her elderly father while working as his caregiver. (Maybe Brad Gerten, R-51A, should give Ritt a call.) Ritt has also worked for the family of a man killed by a Plymouth police officer and won a settlement for a man who sued a St. Paul police officer for excessive force.

The fact that he has only a single endorsement (vs. Soggins’ long list of endorsements) makes me think less “courageous outsider” and more “the people who know this guy don’t actually think he should be a judge,” though.

I would vote for Scoggins.

 

 

 

Election 2014: Voting Recommendations, Minneapolis Ballot (Contested Offices Only)

Important election day note: the poll workers at my polling place were telling everyone to shut off their cell phone. You may want to bring a hard copy when you to vote, just in case.

Note: This is based off the sample ballot in my former precinct, which may be different from yours. I suggest you go to http://myballotmn.sos.state.mn.us/ and put in your own address to see your own ballot so that you can research any miscellaneous races that I might not have covered.

U.S. Senator
AL FRANKEN

U.S. Representative District 5
KEITH ELLISON

State Representative District 63A
JIM DAVNIE

Governor & Lt Governor
MARK DAYTON AND TINA SMITH

Secretary of State
STEVE SIMON

State Auditor
REBECCA OTTO

Attorney General
LORI SWANSON

County Commissioner District 4
PETER MCLAUGHLIN

County Sheriff
EDDIE M. FRIZELL

CITY QUESTION 1 (Minneapolis)
YES

CITY QUESTION 2 (Minneapolis)
YES

School Board Member at Large (SSD #1) (Elect 2)
REBECCA GAGNON
IRIS ALTAMIRANO

School Board Member District 5 (SSD #1)
NELSON INZ

Associate Justice – Supreme Court 2
WILHELMINA (MIMI) WRIGHT

Associate Justice – Supreme Court 3
DAVID LILLEHAUG

Judge – 4th District Court 16
JAMES A. MOORE

Judge – 4th District Court 43
BRIDGET ANN SULLIVAN

Judge – 4th District Court 53
BEV BENSON

Judge – 4th District Court 61
AMY DAWSON