I wrote about this race in the primary but wanted to revisit it in the general election. Again, the candidates running are:
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during her administration), although she got replaced by RT Rybak seventeen years ago now, so this is a somewhat outdated grudge.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:
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:
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.
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. Representative District 5
State Representative District 63A
Governor & Lt Governor
MARK DAYTON AND TINA SMITH
Secretary of State
County Commissioner District 4
EDDIE M. FRIZELL
School Board Member at Large (SSD #1) (Elect 2)
School Board Member District 5 (SSD #1)
Associate Justice – Supreme Court 2
WILHELMINA (MIMI) WRIGHT
Associate Justice – Supreme Court 3
Judge – 4th District Court 16
JAMES A. MOORE
Judge – 4th District Court 43
BRIDGET ANN SULLIVAN
Judge – 4th District Court 53
Judge – 4th District Court 61
This is the last of the elections on either my St. Paul or my former Minneapolis ballot. If anyone has special requests for coverage of a Minneapolis or St. Paul race that wasn’t included, let me know in the comments or by e-mail.
This is another open seat. They’re replacing Judge Robert M. Small, who was appointed in 2006 and first elected in 2008, and is not running again.
BEVERLY J. AHO
I did most of the research on this one a few days ago and then let it sit because it was one of those races where I just didn’t feel like I had that much to say, and for some reason that felt a lot harder to sit down and do than the races where I pretty much can’t shut up.
This is an open seat. Judge Jane Ranum isn’t running again.
Running for this seat:
One of the oddities this year in Hennepin County is that there are, in fact, three actual open seats in the judicial races. I did a cursory look at all three races and it looks like there’s one that’s a battle between two liberals; one that’s a person with a bunch of supporters vs. a person with no supporters; and one that’s clearly a liberal vs. a conservative.
This one is a liberal vs. a liberal:
BRIDGET ANN SULLIVAN
I’m going to use a cut tag now that I’ve figured out how to do that.
This one’s going to be a lot shorter than the last one.
Running for this judgeship:
BRUCE MICHAEL RIVERS
JAMES A. MOORE
Bruce Rivers is a criminal defense attorney, and rather than a “why you should vote for me for judge” site, he linked to his professional defense-lawyer website. He makes a reasonable case for why you should hire him as a defense attorney: he’s Board Certified by the National Board of Trial Advocacy, he is certified by the Minnesota Bar Association as a criminal trial specialist, he’s achieved acquittals in all sorts of criminal cases (DUI to Murder I!). He has 16 years of trial experience and has represented 2,000 people. I’m not sure why you’d hire him as a judge, though.
I absolutely believe that everyone has a right to a good defense; our entire system of justice is predicated on criminally accused people having someone competent to work on their behalf. When Adrian Peterson goes to trial for beating the crap out of his child, it will be totally legit for the defense attorney to minimize, justify, and rationalize what he did, because that’s the job of a defense lawyer. On the other hand, when I read stuff like Bruce Rivers’ page on solicitation of a minor (“Many times, the defendant never completed the act with the minor. However, they are charged simply because they communicated in an inappropriate way with the minor”) or domestic assault (“You may also have trouble getting what you deserve during a divorce procedure if convicted of domestic violence”) or sexual assault (“Promiscuity [of the victim] is no longer allowed as a defense except under very limited circumstances. This frustrates many defendants because the fact they know that a victim has had consensual sex with a number of partners, but cannot bring up this fact”) and these pages do not make me think, “oh yeah, I totally want this guy to be a judge.”
I mean — I do actually think a defense lawyer could be a perfectly fine judge. But they need to make a case for themselves. Because a “hire me as your defense lawyer” website really sends the wrong message.
The other thing I found was this rather gushing profile, written last April. (By a professional publicist.) Asked whether he might add a lawyer or two at his firm in the future, he said, “I like the way things are right now. Maintaining focus on the cases I take is what matters, not growing my firm to line my pockets.” …but apparently running for judge was on his immediate to-do list, go figure. (Well, filing for judge, anyway.)
James is the incumbent. Like most people who get appointed to judgeships, he’s a solid pillar of the community (serving on the board at a charter school, coaching youth basketball, and volunteering as a mock trial judge); he spent many years working in the Minneapolis City Attorney’s office. He has an enviable endorsements list that includes both the trial lawyer’s association and the police federation, Betsy Hodges and Rich Stanek, the State Public Defender, a whole lot of judges, and the AFL-CIO.
Vote for James A. Moore.
So FYI, I’m not going to blog about uncontested races unless someone’s running a very serious write-in campaign. In Ramsey County, the Sheriff (Matt Bostrom) and County Attorney (John Choi) are running unopposed. In Hennepin County, County Attorney Mike Freeman is running unopposed, but there’s a race for County Sheriff.
Also, for some reason Sheriff is one of those words I can never spell. I always want to put in two r’s. So I apologize in advance if I get it wrong somewhere in this post.
Here’s who’s running:
EDDIE M. FRIZELL
Eddie works for the Minneapolis Police Department; I’m not entirely clear on how they’re organized, but he oversees a bunch of stuff including some precincts plus the Emergency Preparedness unit, the Emergency Services Unit, and Special Operations Unit (which includes the SWAT people). He’s also served in the MN Army National Guard for 25 years. It’s worth noting that one of the things done at the county level is a lot of the emergency preparedness stuff (I think) so the fact that he’s done it in Minneapolis is a good sign.
I actually went to a random EMS open house a few years back that was being held behind the police station in my precinct. They had fire trucks and ambulances and stuff that you could check out, and a K-9 unit with a dog you could meet. Anyway, I actually asked the guy from the Sheriff’s office what they do that’s different from the police department and the one thing that I actually remember is water rescues. The county has some boats and special equipment for cold-water dives, or something like that. (Obviously in a truly enormous disaster like the 35W bridge collapse, it’s all hands on deck.)
Anyway. Theoretically this is a non-partisan office but I will note that Eddie is endorsed by the DFL. Rich Stanek is a Republican (he served in the state legislature for a while) but is endorsed by a number of Democratic politicians. (I’m sure the Republicans would have endorsed him, too, but that’s a minus not a plus in Hennepin County.)
Eddie was also endorsed by the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Deputies Association, which is to say, the people who report to Rich Stanek endorsed Eddie. They voted 75% to endorse Eddie, with 15% saying no endorsement and only 9% saying “yeah, Rich!” AWKWARD. (Extra awkward if Rich wins.)
Philosophically, Eddie talks a lot about community policing. I find that really encouraging. I grew up in Madison, Wisconsin in the era of Police Chief David Couper, who is probably the closest thing to a real-world Paladin I have ever encountered in real life. (Complete with a genuine commitment to the Lawful-Good way of life.) Couper was a big fan of community policing, possibly in the sense of inventing the concept (the Isthmus article says he invented it, but, well, Madisonians can be a little bit parochial.) (Incidentally, if you want to know more about David Couper, he has a blog about police work which is worth a look at.) Eddie notes that you won’t make much headway in fighting crime just with policing; he wants to see community engagement, partnerships, and rebuilt trust.
I’m a big fan of all that stuff. It would be really nice to see a Minneapolis Police Department that was doing some of it. Or even just going to meetings even if people are planning to show up and disagree with them.
Rich is one of those people who gets called “controversial” and “polarizing” a lot. Also sometimes “grandstanding,” “attention-seeking,” and “ambitious.” My impression as a Minneapolis resident was that he was a huge, enormous dick, though at least he was also reasonably competent and mostly effective. He has shown a stunning degree of tenacity simply in returning time and again to electoral politics and building alliances to overcome past scandals.
Back in 2004, then-governor Tim Pawlenty appointed him Public Safety commissioner. Rich then went down in flames over a couple of allegations, including the fact that he’d used the n-word during an off-duty altercation over a car accident in which he also beat up the other driver. The altercation itself happened in 1989, though in 1992 he had to testify under oath about his use of the n-word (which was apparently pretty extensive).
Given all that it’s pretty amazing that he not only made a comeback but won over a lot of black voters (the City Pages link above is to an article titled, “The Rehabilitation of Rich Stanek,” published in 2006).
While Sheriff, let me see. In 2012 he apparently had a woman arrested for trespassing when she was hanging out on a public sidewalk because she’d previously pissed him off. If you’re a supporter of marijuana legalization, be advised that Rich Stanek claims to have “seen firsthand in Hennepin County that there is a direct connection between marijuana and violent crime.” He goes on in that editorial to claim that “In the Hennepin County Adult Detention Center, marijuana is the most commonly detected drug among the 36,000 inmates who are booked into the facility each year. According to our most recent data, approximately 54 percent of males arrested for violent crime test positive for marijuana in Hennepin County.” — let me just touch on those claims really quickly before I move on. (a) Marijuana stays in your system a lot longer than most other drugs, so you’re way more likely to detect it with ANY drug test. (b) What percentage of the males arrested for violent crimes are drunk? (c) A lot of people use pot. Including some violent criminals. I’m not even going to get into the issue of people who self-medicate with street drugs — just, I mean, a lot of people use pot. If you’re an otherwise law-abiding, non-violent person who uses pot and knows Rich Stanek socially, you probably don’t invite him to smoke a bowl with you, and Rich might want to consider the issue of the pool of his research subjects here.
Anyway. I kind of think it’s a little unfair to hold against a law enforcement officer that he’s in favor of enforcing laws, but I’ll also note that he went to a whole lot of trouble to get the county to fund a cell phone tracking system that will let law enforcement know where you’re going even when you’re not using your phone, if you’re carrying it and it’s on.
I’m not honestly sure how much to worry about the KingFisher thing (which incidentally Jeff Johnson voted for, and now says he regrets). But despite being pretty blase about what corporations know about me (if you want a smartphone, you kind of get to pick: do you want Apple, or Google, to know basically everything there is to know about you?) and despite the fact that if they used this system to track me it would probably be because I’d been kidnapped, I think we are right to be extremely suspicious of law enforcement’s belief that they totally need to be able to track our location with sophisticated technology.
In 2007, Rich also got criticized for using public money to make a video bragging about the 35W bridge collapse response, taking credit for stuff that wasn’t actually his to take credit for. And last spring his son went driving off-road with a pickup truck through an environmentally sensitive area and got so mired in the mud he had to be pulled out. I don’t actually think politicians are responsible for the actions of their 22-year-old offspring, but the fact that no charges were filed afterward had me raising an eyebrow. But actually since I started researching this, charges got filed. I’m a little baffled by the gap — it’s one thing when someone is badly hurt or when it’s a really big crime and you’re gathering evidence or whatever. Does it normally take that long to go from incident to arrest when you do something that essentially amounts to vandalism on public land, and are caught while doing it?
Bottom line — I would vote for Eddie Frizell.