Meet the Candidates for Hennepin County Attorney

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Seven candidates are running in the primary for Hennepin County Attorney. They are Martha Holton Dimick, Jarvis Jones, Tad Jude, Mary Moriarty, Paul Ostrow, Saraswati Singh, and Ryan Winkler. 

The top two vote-getters will be on the ballot in November. The HCBA sent each candidate questionnaires via email. All seven candidates were sent the same questions.  Answers have been lightly edited for style. 

The HCBA is not endorsing a candidate in this race. We will be hosting a candidate forum in October. Watch the Hennepin Lawyer for more info closer to the election. 

Hennepin County residents can vote in the primary through August 9. Find your polling place here

Martha Holton Dimick | Campaign Website

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1. Why are you running for Hennepin County Attorney?

Serving my community has been the epicenter of my work for my entire life, and the murder of George Floyd was a turning point for me, as it was for so many others. I was both deeply unsatisfied with my constraints on the bench and disappointed with the response from the Minneapolis City Council and many activists. I felt that my role on the bench was too limited for such a pivotal moment in our city and county’s history. After much thought and many conversations with family and friends, I decided to retire from the bench on New Year’s Eve 2021 to run for this office.

I have lived in North Minneapolis for 20 years, and I love my community. But over the past two years, there have been 94 homicides; some were children. This is unacceptable. My first priority as county attorney is public safety, we need to prosecute violent, repeat offenders and explore alternatives to incarceration for low-level offenders. I will send a strong message that if you commit a crime and put the health and safety of our communities at risk, you will be prosecuted.

2. How will your background and perspective serve you as County Attorney?

I grew up in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the third of nine kids in the inner city. My siblings (especially my brothers) grew up fearing law enforcement and specifically our notoriously racist Milwaukee Police Chief Harold Breier.

Having worked in the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office as a community prosecutor for the Northside starting in 1999, I know the office inside and out. I left many colleagues behind when I became Susan Segal’s Deputy City Attorney in 2009, and I am very excited to work with these incredibly skilled professionals again. At the City Attorney's office, I managed a staff of 60 prosecutors and staff.

Public safety isn’t a political slogan for me. As a former prosecutor and serious crimes judge, it’s my profession, and as someone who lives in North Minneapolis and feels the effects of the rise in violence in my community, it’s my life. I will use my experience to effectively prosecute violent offenders while finding alternatives to incarceration for low-level offenders. As we address public safety, it is crucial we implement criminal justice reform and police accountability. My professional and lived experiences make me uniquely qualified to run the largest prosecution office in the state.

3. What do you see as the most important issue HCBA members should consider when voting for County Attorney?

The candidate’s ability to manage an effective office.

The next Hennepin County Attorney will have a laundry list of issues handed to them when they are elected. Issues like gun violence, rising crime, criminal justice reform, police accountability, juvenile crime, carjackings, and many, many more. HCBA members and voters across Hennepin County should first and foremost consider which candidate will be able to get the job done on day one. The county cannot afford on-the-job training, politicking, or experimenting in such a crucial moment.

One of my main priorities as Hennepin County Attorney will be to restore effectiveness to the office. The County office has a record caseload, and there is low morale within the office. I am the only candidate that has worked in the county office and the only candidate with experience running an office of prosecutors. I plan on using these experiences and implementing the techniques I learned to rebuild trust with our justice partners outside the office and, most importantly, the attorneys in the office. Furthermore, the County Office needs a professional, not a politician. As County Attorney, I put our important work above politics.

Jarvis Jones | Campaign Website

Man in front of blue sky and bridge1. Why are you running for Hennepin County Attorney?

The two primary reasons I am running for Hennepin County Attorney are: First, we have been presented with a false-choice during this election: Having safe streets or treating all residents fairly and equally. Secondly, I am running because too many of our elected leaders and some candidates are afraid to speak simple, hard truths to residents.  Below are five simple, hard truths we need to acknowledge:

Hard Truth #1: Crime is completely out of control. We need a prosecutor who is unapologetic in saying that job #1 for the chief prosecutor is keeping our community safe. As your next prosecutor, I pledge to take back our streets, neighborhoods, and the downtown area¬—without apology!

Hard Truth #2: Our criminal system treats some residents of color as 2nd class citizens. The Minnesota Department of Human Rights found “rampant racial bias” in our criminal justice system. Not surprisingly, many residents of color strongly distrust our criminal justice system. For a few decades now, we have collectively ignored the anger, pain, and cries of our residents of color regarding the injustices they encounter on a regular basis. We can do better! And, I have a written plan to do better.

2. How will your background and perspective serve you as County Attorney?

Hard Truth #3: We need a leader who can identify with and speak to our troubled young men that live in our diverse neighborhoods. My background¬—as a black male growing up on the Southside of Chicago— allows me to personally relate to many of our troubled young men. I understand first-hand what it means to be pulled over for simply “driving while black” and also what it means to be treated like a “suspect” first for simply walking down the street at night. I will not need a cultural interpreter or translator.

I have over 25 years of litigation experience; was vice-president at a Fortune 300 company managing hundreds of employees; I was the first black president of the Minnesota State Bar and Hennepin County Bar Associations; and, twice-elected president of the Minnesota Minority Lawyers Association.

However, that’s not why you should vote for me. Vote for me because: I’m the only candidate who won’t make you choose between safe streets and criminal justice reform. We will do both! Vote for me because for over 30 years, I have been a change agent and a bridgebuilder in not only the legal community, but also across many of our troubled and diverse communities.

3. What do you see as the most important issue HCBA Members should consider when voting for County Attorney?

Hard Truth #4: Unless we have safe streets in all communities, we will not have safe streets in our surrounding suburbs.

We need a prosecutor who understands that and is willing to build bridges across all of our communities, from Edina to Minneapolis.  If elected, I will be out in our troubled and diverse communities on a weekly basis and one of my first hires will be a community-engagement liaison that will report directly to me

Hard Truth #5: We need a Prosecutor with the “mindset” of a Prosecutor

In Hennepin County, we do not need a chief prosecutor with the mindset and experience of a politician, judge, public defender, or criminal justice system-insider. Instead, we need a prosecutor who has the mindset of a chief prosecutor and will make fundamental changes to a broken system (a change agent) and at the same time, will work tirelessly to build bridges across our diverse and troubled communities (a bridgebuilder). I have a detailed written plan to do just that at:

On August 9th, If you want more of the same, vote for the politicians and system-insiders who got us here. If you want real change that can speak to the needs of all neighborhoods and communities, vote for me, a change agent and bridge-builder for over 30 years.

Tad Jude | Campaign Website

Man in suit1. Why are you running for Hennepin County Attorney?

First, I want to restore the rule of law­—a rule in which citizens can know the law, all citizens are equal before the law, and the law is settled by fair-minded judges. Too often have we seen different standards of the law wielded so as to achieve political purposes – a lenient standard applied to favored citizens and a draconian standard applied against disfavored citizens. Such double standards, I will not permit. The same law must be applied in the same measure to all persons regardless of race, religion, class, sex, age, or other protected status.

Second, I want to restore public safety. Because prosecution of criminals has fallen out of vogue for many of our political leaders, violent crime has dramatically increased. This past year, we have sadly witnessed over one-hundred homicides in Minneapolis alone, many involving young children. Last year, carjackings increased by three-fold, with most other crimes also increasing dramatically. This increase of violence must stop. I will prosecute crime once again.

Third, I will bring integrity and professionalism to the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office. I will not tolerate unjust discrimination of any kind. I want to foster a relationship of trust between the County Attorney’s Office and the police departments, as well as the broader community.

2. How will your background and perspective serve you as County Attorney?

I am uniquely qualified to be Hennepin County Attorney. The past eleven years, I have lived the courtroom as a 10th district court judge. There, I have presided over all types of civil and criminal trials. I have served on the Hennepin County Board of Commissioners and the Hennepin County Law Library Board. I have served as a State Senator, as a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, as Chair of the full House Judiciary Committee, and as Chair of the Hennepin County Legislative Delegation.

In addition to all these public positions, I have privately practiced law, owned and operated a business, served in the U.S. Army Reserves, and raised a family. As such, I have intimate knowledge of the workings of government and of the law, as well as great empathy for private citizens who are subject to the law.

As a result of my experiences, I have come to deeply believe that government and its officials must conduct their offices with integrity, impartiality, and empathy. My history enables me to provide the people of Hennepin County with strong leadership, fair conduct, and the professionalism that one should expect from the County Attorney.

3. What do you see as the most important issue HCBA Members should consider when voting for County Attorney?

As attorneys, we are all officers of the court. As such, we have all sworn an oath proclaiming our support of the Constitutions of both the United States and the State of Minnesota. We have promised to “discharge faithfully the duties of … office [].” These I will do. I will enforce federal and state law so as to stem the rising crime rates.

I will restore to the County Attorney’s Office professionalism and integrity. Such professionalism and integrity will restore trust from both police officers and the broader community. The County Attorney’s Office will foster good relationships with local police departments. Both police and County Attorney need to focus on victims of crime. Victims deserve that we will work together to ensure that best evidence and credible witnesses get before juries at trials. Charging decisions will be transparent and apolitical.

I will execute my office by following the facts, the evidence, and the law without fear or favor. This will be accomplished with a transparent and impartial manner. I will strive for justice rather than politics in our criminal justice system. In executing the Office of County Attorney in this manner, I hope to foster goodwill and professionalism.

Mary Moriarty | Campaign Website

Woman in blazer1. Why are you running for Hennepin County Attorney?

I believe that no matter where a person lives — whether it’s in Brooklyn Park, North Minneapolis, or Minnetonka — they deserve to feel safe. That’s why I am running for Hennepin County Attorney. Through this one election, voters have the power to change the direction of our criminal legal system. The next Hennepin County Attorney must answer urgent calls for reform, build trust between law enforcement and the community, and respond to the nationwide increase in violent crime.

My experience, knowledge of our communities and the people who live in them, and understanding of the complex underlying causes of crime make me well-prepared to tackle these challenges. I’m running to continue my life’s work in public service, dedicated to improving lives, and seeking fairness for the people of Hennepin County.

As County Attorney, I will implement a proactive, data-driven approach to criminal justice. I believe this is our time to forge a new path forward; one that keeps our community safe while also ending the cycles of mass incarceration that have decimated communities of color and broken up too many families. Together we can and will build a criminal legal system that works for everyone.

2. How will your background and perspective serve you as County Attorney?

I have over 30 years of experience practicing public law in Hennepin County, much of it as a courtroom litigator. In fact, my very first drug case ended up going all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court (Minnesota v Dickerson).  I ultimately worked my way up to serve as the county’s first woman Chief Public Defender in 2014. During my six years leading the second largest public law office in the state, an independent evaluation recognized it as one of “the most effective and highly regarded public defender offices in the entire country.”

 3. What do you see as the most important issue HCBA members should consider when voting for County Attorney?

I began my career as a public defender in Hennepin County in 1990 and worked my way up to serve as the county’s Chief Public Defender for six years. During my time leading the second largest public law office in the state, an independent evaluation found we were one of the most effective and highly regarded public defender offices in the entire country. Under my leadership, our office successfully fought to reduce racial biases in low-level marijuana stings and traffic stops.

I am an experienced courtroom litigator in Hennepin County. The Hennepin County Attorney’s office is the largest public law office in the state. Having run the second largest for six years, I am more prepared to serve in this role than any other candidate in the race.

My decades of experience trying cases, running a large public law office, teaching and training attorneys around the country and at law schools in Minnesota, as well as my deep understanding of the complex underlying reasons for crime, make me the best-prepared candidate to tackle the challenges we face.

Paul Ostrow | Campaign Website

1. Why are you running for Hennepin County Attorney?Man in front of wall

I am running for County Attorney to bring my experience as a veteran prosecutor and civic leader to build bridges and unite Hennepin County behind a common vision of safety and procedural justice.  Other candidates in this race have attached themselves to a political party or a faction – DFL, GOP, the “progressive wing” of the Minneapolis DFL and the ‘establishment wing” of the DFL.   Our issues demand an honest broker not a partisan or leader of a faction. I am a life-long Democrat but by law in Minnesota the position of County Attorney is nonpartisan.  I have worked effectively with law enforcement for 40 years and have also worked with neighborhoods and diverse communities. I am a collaborator – an example of my collaboration is my work with Abigail Cerra with whom I recently published an article on the abuse of “coaching” and how Brady policies can both protect the rights of defendants and serve the interests of good cops.

2.How will your background and perspective serve you as County Attorney?

The position of Hennepin County Attorney is nonpartisan but requires the political skills I developed as a city leader. I was known as a collaborator, a reformer, and a consensus-builder.  While nonpartisan, the position of Hennepin County Attorney requires “political skills” including being a good communicator and a leader who can instill confidence in the public and his or her staff.  My experience in Minneapolis is coupled with relationships I have built in suburban communities both as a city and county prosecutor.  I will be ideally positioned to strengthen the relationship between Minneapolis and its suburban Hennepin County neighbors. First and foremost, I am a problem solver – I will bring creative solutions to the office and to the courts. I also am the only candidate that has extensive experience not just in criminal law but in the other aspects of the job.  I served as general counsel for suburban communities from 1986-1997 and was often the Council Member who worked closest with the City Attorney on civil legal matters during my time on the Council.

 3. What do you see as the most important issue HCBA members should consider when voting for County Attorney?

The most important issue facing the HCBA in making your decision is which candidate can keep us safe while also building trust in the criminal justice system by protecting constitutional and civil rights.  We can and must do both.  More than anything we need to welcome in all perspectives and have a strong and unifying voice as Hennepin County Attorney.  I am the candidate that offers the leadership we need.  For more information on my proposals including our ten-point plan to address violent crime and the Transparency Solution you can go to 

Saraswati Singh | Campaign Website

Woman in blazer1.Why are you running for Hennepin County Attorney?

The Hennepin County Attorney is the top prosecutor for Minneapolis & the surrounding area. I'm an experienced prosecutor who handles murder, sexual assault, carjackings & everything in between. I advocate for justice throughout the criminal justice process: first appearances, to trials, to sentencings.

I'm running because we need leaders who have the experience & who have struggled through the same formative experiences as our community. As a woman & woman of color, I know what it's like to not be seen or taken seriously. There are some life experiences you can't teach & we need those experiences in the next Hennepin County Attorney.

As a prosecutor & nationally recognized leader, I know the job. I’ve done this work & I continue to do this work, staying up-to-date & applying the latest data-informed & trauma-informed prosecution practices. I chose to become a prosecutor because the job is to do justice.  I work closely with victim-survivors in my cases, whether little kids, refugees or small business owners.

My priorities are public safety, racial equity, & police accountability. And all at the same time. The criminal justice system cannot deliver on safety & justice without addressing all three at the same time.

I’m the right person at the right time to move Hennepin County forward.

2.How will your background and perspective serve you as County Attorney?

I’m endorsed by John Choi, the Ramsey County Attorney; Run For Something, a national progressive organization; and National Organization For Women, earning an A rating for my leadership on issues, including freedom from violence, reproductive & LGBTQ+ rights. I’m a Moms Demand Action Gun Sense Candidate.

I intentionally gained criminal & civil legal experience in Minnesota. I managed a civil rights caseload for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Minneapolis. I worked with federal judges, and Judge Quam in Hennepin County on violent crime cases. At the Minnesota Attorney General’s Office, I worked in the Public Safety Division, traveling to 62 counties on civil & criminal cases. I'm a prosecutor in the Trial Division at the Ramsey County Attorney's Office.

I’m a leader in Minnesota. I served four terms as Co-President of the American Constitution Society-Minnesota Lawyer Chapter, earning a national leadership award. I was appointed by Governor Walz to oversee a state agency. I’m active in the County Attorneys Association & DFL Lawyers Committee. I graduated from the University of Minnesota Law School, magna cum laude.

We face a historic time, which means we need authentic public leaders who are willing to work hard with the community to reach a higher goal: justice.

3.What do you see as the most important issue HCBA members should consider when voting for County Attorney?

A prosecutor’s job is to achieve justice. You should consider: who do you trust to achieve justice & who is aligned with your values?

My priorities are public safety, racial equity, & police accountability. And all at the same time. The criminal justice system cannot deliver on safety & justice without addressing all three at the same time.

I’ve spent years fighting for justice in the courtroom. I handle the toughest cases as a prosecutor, working with victim-survivors. I’ve actually done the work, I haven’t just seen others do the work.

I have the life experience critical for this job. As a person of color, I’ve experienced discrimination inside and outside the system & so have my parents & grandparents. We need someone with these lived experiences to effectively work toward a more fair justice system.

I have the leadership experience & temperament for the job. I oversee a state agency; I’ve run a government affairs department. I recruit & train attorneys as a prosecutor. I received the County Attorney’s Public Service award for leading difficult conversations on race & the law after George Floyd was murdered.

At this historic time, I’m here to meet the moment. I'm an experienced prosecutor, a Hindu, & the daughter of Indian immigrants.

Ryan Winkler | Campaign Website

Man in suit with arms crossed1.Why are you running for Hennepin County Attorney?

I am running to be the next Hennepin County Attorney because now, more than anytime in recent memory, people in our community deserve and demand to feel safer in their homes and neighborhoods. Many people are stepping up to make a difference, but collaborative leadership on public safety has been missing. I’m running to lead our communities in constructing a public safety system that will serve all people, all neighborhoods, and all communities. Minneapolis and its suburbs are in a challenging situation, but we’ve been through tough times before. I know we can keep families safe and restore trust in our public safety system if we do it together. I am running to bridge the gaps and find solutions that will keep everyone in Hennepin County safe.

2.How will your background and perspective serve you as County Attorney?

As the current House Majority Leader and in my 16 years as a public official, I’ve led the legislature through a pandemic, civil unrest and a period of reckoning on civil rights, and a public safety crisis in Minnesota. I am the only candidate in the race with the significant public leadership experience to take on the high-profile and demanding role of county attorney. I know how to lead a strong team and am ready to make the county attorney’s office a national leader on public safety and justice. Since 2019, I’ve built a coalition of legislators, racial justice advocates, and local officials to pass a historic cannabis legalization bill through the state House, which included nation-leading criminal expungement policy for non-violent cannabis offenders. I’ve strongly supported legislation to fight racial discrimination in our criminal justice system, promote public safety, and improve police accountability. I’ve also led the way on economic justice for working Minnesotans, including legislation to protect immigrant communities and ban private prisons. We need to construct a complete public safety system, and the right county attorney can be the leader who spearheads that effort.

3.What do you see as the most important issue HCBA members should consider when voting for County Attorney?

The Hennepin County Bar Association should look closely at my endorsements. My campaign was endorsed by the unions representing Minnesota public defenders as well as the prosecution attorneys and staff in the Hennepin County Attorney’s office. They trust in my ability to lead this office effectively. Beyond that, I encourage the HCBA members to look at my record of advocating and lawmaking on the most pressing issues. I have worked with a diverse group of elected officials, community organizations, advocacy organizations and unions to make lasting change in a number of areas, including cannabis reform, criminal justice reform, police reform, minimum wage, and in some of Minnesota’s biggest legal challenges. I will continue to build coalitions and lead with integrity as Hennepin County Attorney.

Managing Editor
Elsa Cournoyer

Executive Editor

Joseph Satter