Throughout the campaign, candidates for Hennepin County Attorney are offering their constituents similar stands: tougher initiatives on crime and improvements in the criminal justice system.
But when it comes to addressing the University community, Amy Klobuchar and Sheryl Ramstad Hvass have slightly different perspectives.
In an election that has set a record in campaign expenditures, both candidates are struggling for the position former attorney Mike Freeman left to pursue the governor’s Democratic nomination last summer. The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office is in charge of prosecuting major crimes in the county, and representing the county’s agencies’ legal affairs. The office also oversees a staff of more than 100 lawyers.
For Republican-endorsed Ramstad Hvass, people at the University reflect the same concerns she has heard from the Hennepin community at large. She wants to attack gangs and get guns out of the hands of kids, criminals and drug dealers. She also hopes to improve the juvenile court system and reduce the amount of trials that are plea bargained.
“My desire is to work with the University community to make sure that they live in a safe community,” said Ramstad Hvass, who is also the sister of Rep. Jim Ramstad, R-Minn. She is a partner at the law firm Rider Bennett Egan & Arundel, and has worked as Hennepin County judge and public defender.
On the other side, Democratic-Farmer-Labor endorsed Klobuchar wants to address petty crimes and personal safety issues in the University area. Her community prosecution initiative will assign lawyers to neighborhoods to work with community organizations and local police. The lawyers will be in charge of prosecuting cases coming out of those specific areas, she said.
Klobuchar, who lives in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood near the University, is a partner with the law firm of Gray Plant Mooty. She also wants to reduce the amount of trials plea bargained, allowing lawyers to spend more time in the actual trials. She promotes reforming the juvenile justice system, and getting guns off the streets — away from kids and criminals.
The latest poll shows Klobuchar with 31 percent support and Ramstad with 22 percent. The poll also showed 44 percent of voters as undecided.
However, the campaign has moved beyod discussing crime issues and improvements to the court system. Campaign funding has occupied a part of the candidates’ time.
Klobuchar has criticized the amount of money spent so far in the campaign and has called for spending limits. By mid-September, she had collected about $182,000, an amount that was doubled by Ramstad Hvass. According to current numbers supplied by the Klobuchar campaign, the democratic candidate has collected $296,000, whereas Ramstad Hvass has collected an estimated $450,000.
Ramstad Hvass said focusing on campaign expenditures is a way Klobuchar tries to detour the debate from who is more qualified for the job.
“The only reason my opponent is bringing out the amount of money is because she hasn’t been able to raise it; she doesn’t have the qualifications,” Ramstad Hvass said.
She said since Hennepin County is so large, getting the message out requires more resources.
Klobuchar said since she doesn’t have a campaign budget as large as her rival, her major challenge is to reach as many people in the community as she can.