With his long, distinguished record of public service, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman deserves another term leading his office of 400, including 200 attorneys.
Freeman, who is facing challenger Mark Haase, served as county attorney from 1990-1999, then was elected again in 2006 giving him 19 years of experience running Minnesota's largest public law office. He has also been a Minnesota state senator and an unsuccessful candidate for Congress and Minnesota governor.
Under his leadership, the office has engaged with community groups, pressed to reduce gun violence and helped pass several legislative gun possession reforms while continuing to advocate for universal background checks. And in the interest of transparency and accountability, Freeman rightly decided to handle charging decisions in police-involved shootings himself instead of using grand juries, which operate in secret. That way he could make all of the information about the investigations, including video, available for public review.
Freeman's goals for the future include expanding record expungement for lower-level offenders, restoring felons' voting rights, and reducing the time between charges and case resolution. In addition to the local accomplishments of his office, he's been leader among his peers, serving as president of the Minnesota County Attorneys Association and president of the National District Attorney's Association.
In previous campaigns, Freeman, 70, has received DFL endorsement, but he was denied it this year in part because of opposition from activists critical of his handling of police-involved shootings. The party nod went to his challenger, Haase, an attorney and IT director and former vice president of the Council on Crime and Justice. The 50-year-old says his personal history of getting into trouble with the law as a teen, then turning his life around, has given him insights and helped motivate his work on criminal and social justice issues.
He co-founded a group called Second Chance Coalition and worked with state legislators to pass sensible criminal justice reforms. His priorities include ending cash bail, expanding access to record expungement and diversion and restorative justice programs, decriminalizing marijuana possession and prioritizing sexual violence cases. Haase is a solid candidate, but did not make a strong case to unseat Freeman.
Across the river, Ramsey County Attorney John Choi, 48, is running for re-election to a third term. Choi has been an outstanding chief lawyer for the county and should be returned to the job. His opponent, Luke Bellville, 45, has run for several elected offices in the past, and does not appear to be actively campaigning.
Hennepin County Board, District 2
Hennepin County Commissioner Linda Higgins is retiring from the board position that represents north and northeast Minneapolis and a central part of the country from Plymouth to St. Anthony. That created an open seat on the seven-member board.
Competing to replace her are human resource professional and nonprofit founder Irene Fernando, 32, and lawyer and former Minneapolis City Council member Blong Yang, 42. Both candidates are the children of Southeast Asian immigrants who were raised in America. The winner will be the first person of color to serve on the board, or one of two if Angela Conley wins her District 4 race. In District 2, Fernando gets our nod.
A political newcomer, she would bring business, nonprofit, education and life experience that would serve the county well. She studied business at the University of Minnesota, co-founded a now-dissolved youth leadership nonprofit, taught at the college level, has been a social entrepreneur and now works in talent management for Thrivent Financial. She's bright, enthusiastic and believes the board needs to reform how it hires and contracts to improve diversity. Fernando wants to focus on issues such as affordable housing, homelessness, climate change and improving transportation access and infrastructure.
Yang is a lawyer who ran unsuccessfully for the County Board in 2012, but was elected to the Minneapolis City Council the next year and served one term before being defeated. He says he wants to bridge gaps between the district's urban center and its suburbs. His other priorities include delivering value for tax dollars, improving access to county services and the county's transportation system including support of Southwest light rail.
Hennepin County Board, District 4
Incumbent Peter McLaughlin, 69, has ably served on the County Board since 1990, representing part of east and downtown Minneapolis and Fort Snelling. McLaughlin is facing strong competition from first-time candidate Angela Conley, 41, who works in job assistance for the county.
Like county attorney Freeman, McLauglin failed to get the DFL endorsement for the first time ever as a commissioner. He's a former state legislator who ran unsuccessfully for Minneapolis mayor in 2005.
McLaughlin has an exemplary record of service and deserves to continue on the job. Few have done more heavy lifting in support of expanding transit in the metro area. The incumbent has built strong relationships with communities and other units of government that allow him to get things done. He has worked on reducing disparities, criminal justice reforms and making local government more innovative and efficient. Recently, he has made progress on finding housing for people in the south Minneapolis homeless encampment.
Conley has strong social service experience after 20 years of working in the field at both the state and county levels. She's knowledgeable about that part of the county's work, but isn't as well-informed about other county issues.
In District 3, which covers the lakes area in Minneapolis and St. Louis Park, incumbent Marion Greene, 48, should be re-elected. LaDonna Redmond filed to challenge her but did not file a 2018 campaign finance report and has not actively campaigned since last month, when her son passed away.