As the dust settles from the 2022 election, it is abundantly clear what the results mean for our country and the Democratic Party. Democrats defied the odds and overperformed expectations both nationally and in Minnesota. In particular, voters spoke loudly and clearly about how they want to see public safety addressed moving forward.
Nationally, Democrats maintained the United States Senate and are expected to keep Republicans to a threadbare majority in the U.S. House. In Minnesota, for the first time since 2014, Democrats will have a governing trifecta at the state level. This legislative mandate will allow us to make progress on everything from codifying a woman's right to an abortion, education, paid family leave and legalizing cannabis.
But more important were the signals voters sent on an issue near and dear to my heart: public safety. In race after race, candidates who supported common sense reform to policing and criminal justice won, while hard-line opponents of reform lost.
This included not only the victories of Gov. Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison, but the outcome of several fights within our party. The supposed referendum on criminal justice reform here in the Twin Cities was the race for Hennepin County Attorney. Mary Moriarty won countywide by nearly 16 percentage points. Earlier, in the primary, candidates who unsuccessfully tried to challenge U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar on an anti-police accountability platform also failed.
Our opponents were clear in their intentions: They sought to undermine criminal justice reform and police accountability in the wake of George Floyd's murder. They sought to use fear and racial hatred to divide us and block reform. They were funded by the same corrupt groups who have long upheld the status quo and opposed accountability when the sacred oath to serve and protect has been violated.
But from Ellison to Moriarty to Walz, our candidates had one thing in common: They did not shy away from our commitment to reform in the wake of George Floyd's murder. They did not apologize for holding officers of the law who violate their oath accountable. And they called out efforts by Republicans to divide us.
Moving forward the path is clear: We cannot give in to fear. We can create a public safety system that builds trust between law enforcement and the communities they represent, but that requires that officers are held to a high standard of accountability for their conduct. We can fight systemic racial injustices in our criminal justice system — from the disproportionate arrest and incarceration rates Black and brown people face, to the marijuana laws that criminalize Black and brown people and remain on the books.
We can craft a public safety system based on data and science, not fear and racism. A data-driven, trauma-informed approach to public safety centers violence prevention and recognizes that we cannot simply prosecute and incarcerate our way to real safety. Reducing crime requires partnering with other government entities, community organizations and schools, and investing in people's basic needs — from education to food, housing and health care. It means well-lit, clean streets that pedestrians feel safe on. And most of all it means a police force that is well-trained, and held to the highest standard of ethics and conduct.
In poll after poll, voters support prevention, rehabilitation and reintegration, and reject overly punitive solutions to public safety. They understand the vital role police play in our communities, but also the vital role of accountability when they violate their oaths. They reaffirmed those values in Minnesota this election. Now it is our job as policymakers to listen to them.
Cedrick Frazier, DFL-New Hope, is a member of the Minnesota House.