Minnesota House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler added his name to the field of potential candidates for Hennepin County Attorney on Wednesday when he publicly expressed interest in the post.

A week after County Attorney Mike Freeman announced he will not seek re-election in November 2022, Winkler said he is "strongly considering" a run.

The Golden Valley DFLer joins a list of people who are exploring possible campaigns, including former Hennepin County Chief Public Defender Mary Moriarty, Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Saraswati Singh and Richfield City Council Member Simon Trautmann.

"We live in a community with deep divisions on race and income and ideology, and yet most of us want the same kinds of things in public safety," Winkler said. "And I think we can address our public safety needs best by working together as a community … and have more understanding and compassion for each other."

Winkler has worked as a lawyer for local tech companies and is now at LinkUp, which provides job market data and analytics. He also founded the Minneapolis-St. Paul chapter of the American Constitution Society, a group that works toward a progressive and inclusive legal system.

Winkler said he has a legislative record of fighting for economic justice and successfully bringing people together over difficult topics. In the Legislature, he led a successful effort to create a fund for victims of the Interstate 35W bridge collapse, sponsored a measure to boost the state's minimum wage and sponsored an unsuccessful bill legalizing recreational marijuana.

"Hennepin County is a very big place," Winkler said. "A Hennepin County attorney needs to be able to bridge those divides, and that's essentially what I have done as a legislative leader."

Meanwhile, Rep. Cedrick Frazier, DFL-New Hope, who is widely seen as a potential candidate but has not confirmed whether he's exploring a run, issued an open-ended statement.

"The open race to become the next Hennepin County attorney is one of the most important ones that will appear on the 2022 ballot," Frazier said. "Whoever runs for that position should have a deep commitment to fixing the racial inequities in our criminal justice system."

Frazier said his first job out of law school at the Hennepin County Public Defender's Office showed him the "outsized power and discretion" that county attorneys possess and how they are "most responsible" for mass incarceration.

"In the coming months," Frazier said, "I will be considering how I can be most effective in continuing to serve my neighbors into 2022."

Moriarty has said people have lost trust in the office, which many activists have criticized for being weak on police who kill civilians and too traditional in its policies that they say unfairly penalize people of color.

"Now more than ever people in our community need to be able to trust that people in charge of our institutions have the ability and vision to create meaningful change," said Moriarty, who often has clashed with Freeman. "People have the right to feel safe, and they don't feel safe right now. We have a system that is very expensive, it's costly, and it's not keeping people safe."

Influential figures, including civil rights lawyer and activist Nekima Levy Armstrong and Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison have supported Moriarty's work in the public defender's office.

Ellison has said he will not run for county attorney.

Singh has described herself as progressive and an Asian American of Indian descent interested in gender and racial equity. As an assistant Ramsey County Attorney, she prosecutes sexual assaults, domestic assaults and murders, among other cases. She previously worked for the Minnesota Attorney General's Office.

"I think the community needs someone that … knows the system, and at the same time knows and appreciates the flaws and instead of running away from it, wants to make it better," Singh said. "We need a county attorney who is not only willing to talk about [equity], but has lived experiences with racism, gender equality."

Singh said she's familiar with the intricacies of the criminal justice system and is committed to improving it despite the difficulties that may lie ahead.

Trautmann is a Minneapolis native of Puerto Rican descent who runs a general practice law firm in Minneapolis.

"There's never been another time in our community when there has been such an urgency for … justice," he said. "Every conversation that I've had has been rooted in the urgency of economic justice and racial justice."

Trautmann said he has a track record of bringing "clarity of vision and consistency to transformational change" in his work. He wants to re-examine the "punitive" criminal justice system that encourages repeat offenses instead of "healthy, purposeful reintegration into community."

Chao Xiong • 612-270-4708

Twitter: @ChaoStrib