Mark Haase didn’t set out to become an attorney. On Wednesday, though, he announced his bid for the DFL endorsement for Hennepin County attorney, the chief prosecutor in Minnesota’s most populous county.
In his mid-30s, Haase said, he was a college-level teacher when he read an article about a young woman sentenced to 15 years in federal prison after being convicted of conspiring to distribute drugs.
“That made me very angry at the waste of her life, not to mention the waste of my taxpayer money,” he said. “At that time, I wasn’t tuned in to the issues of the criminal justice system.”
Haase, 50, who lives in Minneapolis’ Longfellow neighborhood, graduated from the University of St. Thomas School of Law in 2006. He started a small family law practice, then worked for Council on Crime and Justice. He was an independent lobbyist for groups such as the Minnesota Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Restore the Vote coalition.
Recently, he became government relations director for the state of Minnesota.
He’s taking on Mike Freeman, 70, who has held the job for 19 years (from 1990-99 and again beginning in 2007). The Minnesota Secretary of State’s office website does not list any other candidates.
Haase (pronounced hah-see) wants more innovation in the justice system. “Mike has been a competent, very faithful public servant, but there’s a real appetite for changes in our criminal justice system that are sorely needed, and I haven’t seen Hennepin County moving forward and taking as much of a leadership role as we could be, Haase said.
On his website, markhaase.org, Haase said his priorities would be holding accountable those who commit violent, sexual and predatory crimes, creating an independent review board, simplifying the sealing of records for nonviolent crimes and pushing to change the state law that requires judges to hold public hearings for 16- and 17-year-olds charged with felony offenses. Haase’s website said he wants judges to be able to decide whether those hearings are open on a case-by-case basis to lessen the impact on youths, particularly youths of color.