A powerful statewide police group is pulling its endorsements of several Democratic state legislators, marking the latest turn in a deepening political rift over a DFL-endorsed candidate’s conduct at a rally outside Minneapolis Police Federation President Bob Kroll’s home.
The Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association (MPPOA) board voted this week to back Republican challengers to Democratic incumbents in at least two potentially competitive seats, according to social media posts from the GOP candidates. The association, which represents more than 10,000 law enforcement members across the state, previously expressed support for DFL candidates in both races.
The announcement follows a public spat between the association and the House DFL Caucus over a planned fundraiser that was set to include John Thompson, an activist running for a St. Paul House seat. Thompson, who is expected to win the heavily Democratic district in November, has faced intense backlash for his inflammatory comments and conduct as he joined demonstrators protesting Kroll’s response to the police killing of George Floyd.
In a letter to House Speaker Melissa Hortman released publicly Monday evening, Brian Peters, executive director of the association, said the group is deeply frustrated by the caucus’ support of Thompson after he was filmed beating piñata effigies of Kroll and his wife, a TV news anchor, outside the lieutenant’s Hugo home.
Peters confirmed late Thursday that his board reversed course on several DFL endorsements, including those publicized by the GOP, but declined to share the full list for publication. He said members wanted to see Democrats deliver stronger condemnation of Thompson, who he said crossed a line by targeting Kroll’s wife
“The endorsements that we rescinded, my issue was those candidates did not stand up to their leadership and put pressure on and ask why are we supporting a candidate who did this in Hugo,” he said. “If this is the future of the Democratic Party, my organization is going to support elsewhere.”
Hortman has said that although she does not condone Thompson’s behavior, she accepted his apology and intends to work with him should he be elected to the House in November. The Brooklyn Park Democrat noted that Thompson’s family has faced death threats over the incident. Late Monday, the caucus announced that it was postponing the fundraiser indefinitely.
At least two Republican challengers posted MPPOA endorsement announcements on Facebook on Thursday. “Democrats have turned their backs on law enforcement,” wrote Susan Akland, the GOP nominee against DFL Rep. Jeff Brand in a southern Minnesota district. Republican Bill Maresh, who is challenging Rep. Zack Stephenson, DFL-Coon Rapids, posted a letter from the group confirming the endorsement. “I am proud that I am now the only MPPOA-endorsed candidate for House Seat 36A,” he wrote.
Brand had shared an endorsement from the group in mid-August, and Stephenson lists its backing on his website, though it’s unclear whether he was endorsed earlier this year or in 2018.
A spokesperson for the House DFL Caucus declined to comment. Brand was not immediately available and Stephenson would not confirm the news. “That’s a question for MPPOA,” he said. Several additional DFL incumbents rumored to have lost their endorsements did not respond to calls and e-mails seeking confirmation.