A.J. Awed announces candidacy for Minneapolis mayor

Awed, co-director of the Cedar-Riverside Community Council, said he would be able to better represent communities of color for issues like policing and housing.

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Shannon Doyle

Minneapolis Mayoral Candidate AJ Awed poses in front of Minneapolis City Hall on Sunday, April 18.

Lydia Morrell

Cedar-Riverside leader A.J. Awed announced his bid to run for Minneapolis mayor earlier this month.

Awed will run on a platform of housing for all and increasing alternate strategies for public safety. He said he is running in response to how Mayor Jacob Frey “failed the city.”

The mayoral election comes on the heels of the police killing of George Floyd and the ensuing fallout, which has included widespread unrest and a citywide reckoning of policing and racial justice.

Awed said his campaign is centered around “the bridge that I can build between communities and being able to bring marginalized communities into the fold.”

Awed — who is running as a Democratic-Farmer-Labor (DFL) candidate — said his platform aligns with community members’ values, in contrast to the current leadership who he said “doesn’t listen enough” to Minneapolis residents.

When it comes to public safety, Awed said he wants to work for restorative justice and developing alternative responses to petty crimes. He added that he did not want to get rid of the police department altogether, rather some responsibilities such as traffic enforcement should be handled by other crime response departments. The City Council voted Friday to start the process toward finding an alternative to police responding to traffic stops.

“I’m in favor of a model where police isn’t the first answer, but it’s the final resort,” Awed said. “I’m a firm believer that the community should ultimately drive this issue, so I’m willing to listen to what shape that takes.”

Frey originally ran for mayor in 2017 on a platform of affordable housing and improving police relationships with the community. Frey’s reelection website lists that he supports “a both-and approach” to policing: Find alternatives to traditional policing while working with the Minneapolis Police Department to improve.

Rent control is another of Awed’s key issues, and he said he supports a proposed rent control policy that would limit on how much landlords can increase rent within a year if voters approve the initiative.

Frey opposes a rent control policy, saying this will not solve the housing crisis and that it will open the floodgates for poorly written policies, the Star Tribune reported.

In 2020, Awed ran for the Ward 6 City Council seat but lost to Jamal Osman. Osman received 2,795 votes, besting Awed by about 500 votes.

“This time, we are really going to be stringent on the message of stronger together,” said Ayan Mohamed, volunteer coordinator for Awed’s campaign and University of Minnesota pharmacy student. Mohamed worked on Awed’s Ward 6 campaign last year and said she is involved because she likes Awed’s focus on community and his platform of housing for all.

Awed’s young family consists of his wife and two toddlers. He is currently the co-executive director of Cedar-Riverside Community Council, where he recently worked to increase vaccination accessibility at the Brian Coyle Center.

Abdi Abdulle, an East African community leader from the Longfellow neighborhood, said he is part of an informal group of community leaders who plan to advise Awed throughout his campaign, making sure he is connected to what the community wants for Minneapolis.

Abdulle said the group is “just making sure there’s representation in the city, someone who understands the issues that immigrants, the people from low-income neighborhoods are going through because this is where the killing [of George Floyd] happened. And this is where most of the problems happened.”