Retired Hennepin County Public Defender Mary Moriarty and retired Hennepin County District Judge Martha Holton Dimick won Tuesday’s crowded primary for Hennepin County Attorney and will go on to November’s general election.
More than 62,000 Hennepin County voters backed the DFL-endorsed Moriarty, who scored 36% of the vote to Dimick’s nearly 18%. DFL House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler finished with 16% of the vote.
Dimick’s vote total was 30,668 and Winkler’s was 27,924, for a difference of 2,744 votes.
When outgoing Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced he would not seek another term, a crowd of candidates materialized to take his place.
Seven total candidates jumped into the race: Moriarty, Dimick, Winkler, former Minneapolis City Council member and current assistant county attorney in Anoka Paul Ostrow, former Hennepin County commissioner and former judge Tad Jude, longtime lawyer and bar association officer Jarvis Jones and assistant Ramsey County attorney Saraswati Singh.
Jude came in fourth with 10% of the vote. Then it was Ostrow with 8%, Singh with 7%, and Jarvis finished with 3%.
Moriarty was Hennepin County Public Defender for six years and spent a total of 31 years in the office before retiring in 2021. She was the first to announce her candidacy for the county attorney’s office, back in September. She received high-profile endorsements from the likes of Rep. Ilhan Omar and Attorney General Keith Ellison and raised $145,000.
Winkler announced his bid for county attorney in October, shortly after Moriarty, and was endorsed by Minnesota House Speaker Melissa Hortman and a slate of House representatives and local unions. He also had raised, by far, the most money: nearly $234,000.
Winkler issued a statement Wednesday in which he did not endorse Moriarty or Dimick but said this: “We certainly have major challenges ahead of us — with crime out of control and violence ruining far too many lives. The voters of Hennepin County have an important responsibility in this next election to choose a candidate for county attorney who can help improve policing, prosecute violent crime and prevent crime through diversion and early intervention. Partnering with community leaders and law enforcement is the only way to move forward.”
At her primary night results event at Fair State Brewing Cooperative in Minneapolis, Moriarty attributed her victory to a shared desire by the county’s residents to bring about meaningful change in public safety.
“We won today because the people of Hennepin County understand that we cannot achieve true public safety for all without reform,” Moriarty told supporters. “The community members, elected leaders and organizations that support our campaign do not always agree with each other on every issue, but we all agree on one thing: The status quo is not working.”
Moriarty said she hopes to bring a data-driven approach to public safety that is also informed by community members, aiming to help end cycles of incarceration disproportionately felt by communities of color. She pledged to bring about change that is shaped by engaging community leaders and said she will hold people who break the law — including police — accountable.
Dimick didn’t join the race until February. Still, the former Fourth Judicial District judge and Hennepin County prosecutor was able to raise $135,000 and received endorsements from multiple mayors in Minnesota, including Minneapolis Mayor Jacob Frey, multiple current and former Minneapolis City Council members, and the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association on her way to winning the second spot on the November ballot.
Dimick said she was encouraged by Tuesday night’s results. She said her message of criminal justice reform, improving public safety and “sending a message to violent criminals” resonated with voters.
“I just hit the ground running,” she said in an interview. “I tried to reach as many people as possible and let them know I really believe in public safety, and I want people to be comfortable and safe in their communities.”
Andrew Ulasich, 37, a Minneapolis resident and organizer with Faith in Minnesota, said he voted for Moriarty because she’s the candidate most likely to bring transformational change to how the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office operates, adding he believes Moriarty will improve public safety countywide by embracing alternatives to prison like drug treatment programs and mental health supports.
“Prioritizing those over just locking people up so that they can be restored to the community as full members — that’s what’s gonna keep us all safer and give people opportunities,” said Ulasich.
Attorney Ashley Repp, 31, worked as a public defender under Moriarty, who she called a mentor she would go to for guidance on both her legal practice and anything personal.
“I think you have to be compassionate and empathetic to the stories that people come to the table with because they’re your community members, and I think that that’s often a piece of prosecution that’s missing,” she said. “I think that’s something she’s going to excel at.”
Now that the primary election is over, the Nov. 8 election will decide who, between Moriarty and Dimick, will be the next Hennepin County Attorney.
In the primary for the other countywide office, Hennepin County Sheriff, Dawanna Witt and Joseph Banks finished ahead of Jai Hanson.
Witt, who currently works for the Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office leading the court security and adult detention divisions, received nearly three times as many votes as her nearest competitor: 91,001 votes, good for 57% of the vote.
Banks, who works as a bail agent and used to be chief of the Morton Police Department and acting chief of the Lower Sioux Indian Community, received 22% of the vote. And Hanson, a police officer for over 20 years in Bloomington and Lakeville, closed with 20%. Their margin was 3,142 votes: 35,832 for Banks and 32,690 for Hanson.
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a written statement from Winkler following the primary results.