First-time candidate Dave “Hutch” Hutchinson claimed victory Wednesday over Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, even as Stanek refused to concede in one of the biggest local upsets of Tuesday’s election.
Hutchinson’s winning margin to become the county’s top law enforcer was less than half a percentage point, but still high enough to avoid a publicly funded recount. Stanek remained quiet Wednesday, with a statement from his campaign saying the race was “too close to call” and that he would wait until next Tuesday’s canvassing board meeting before making any further decisions.
Yet Hutchinson moved forward by proclaiming his win and reaching out to the sheriff’s deputies’ union, which supported Stanek. On Wednesday afternoon, he appeared at City Hall with Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey.
“The reason we got our name out there is because we worked harder with a lot less,” said Hutchinson. “I’m excited to lead the Sheriff’s Office.”
Frey was more succinct: “Looks like there’s a new sheriff in town.”
Hutchinson’s margin of victory was 0.44 percent, having gained more than 2,300 votes over Stanek. Stanek would have seven days after the canvassing meeting to call for a recount, which would be at his own expense.
Hutchinson’s unexpected win showed the stark divide between the county’s urban and suburban voters. Hutchinson, 39, a Metro Transit sergeant who lives in Bloomington, received the overwhelming support of urban precincts, while Stanek, 56, of Maple Grove, performed strongly in suburban Hennepin County.
It also raised questions about how Hutchinson’s proposed reforms will take shape — and how he will be received by deputies. Hutchinson said he already contacted the union representatives for the deputies.
“I told them, day one, when I get there, that it’s a clean slate,” he said. “It’s going to be about making sure the Sheriff’s Office operates at its highest capacity and level.”
Leaders from the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Deputies and Supervisors associations, which represent the department’s officers, could not be reached Wednesday. Both groups had endorsed Stanek.
“If I was in their position I would’ve endorsed him as well,” Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson won the votes of many who were looking for the Sheriff’s Office to stop informing federal immigration officials about foreign-born people who were booked into the county jail.
Stanek’s handling of the immigration issue made him a target of activists who want local officials to cut ties with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Stanek has said he is required to ask a detainee’s country of origin as part of the regular booking process, and that the information is then passed on to the FBI and ultimately ends up with ICE.
Hutchinson has promised to stop the practice, saying that the roles of the Sheriff’s Office and immigration officials are separate.
Kara Lynum, an immigration attorney based in St. Paul, canvassed for Hutchinson during the campaign and had him on as a guest for her podcast “Immigration Nation.” On Wednesday, she said she felt confident Hutchinson would deliver on his promise.
“I think it’s great news for immigrants in Hennepin County who would’ve been concerned about interacting with the Sheriff’s Office at all,” she said.
John Keller, executive director of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota, which offers legal representation to county residents facing deportation, said “the willingness of immigrant victims to trust police … just got a whole lot better because of this election.”
“There is a very stark difference between the two candidates,” he said. “The positive focus on doing public safety instead of doing civil immigration collaboration, I think is an extremely important change of culture.”
Hutchinson, who’s poised to become the first openly gay sheriff in the Midwest, re-emphasized his message of a more inclusive department on Facebook Wednesday morning.
“Together, we’re going to make Hennepin County a safer and more welcoming place, no matter where you come from, what you look like, who you worship or who you love,” he wrote.