As activists rallied to demand that Minneapolis voters replace their police force, a moderate congresswoman was one of the first to criticize the plan. She doesn’t even reside in Minneapolis. Angie Craig called it “shortsighted and misguided” and warned it could lead to the expulsion of the popular Black chief of police. Craig’s area is a politically divided, suburban-to-rural region south of the city. However, Craig’s willingness to get involved in the fight next door highlights what Democrats see as a political threat. The effort is dividing Democrats along ideological lines as a city that has been synonymous with police abuse struggles with reform. U.S. Rep. Ilhan Olmar and Attorney General Keith Ellison, two of the state’s most prominent progressives, support the plan. It would replace the police department by a Department of Public Safety. Other top Democrats include Sen. Amy Klobuchar, Gov. Tim Walz opposes it. This debate is dominating the City Council and mayoral races. It’s the first race since George Floyd was shot to death by a Minneapolis police officer in May 2020. It has sparked a worldwide racial reckoning. The amendment’s passage would be a significant victory for reform movements, both in substance as symbolism. Many in the Democratic Establishment believe that calls to “dismantle or defund” police resulted in losing party seats in Congress and statehouses last year. They are determined to prevent that from happening again next year. The Minneapolis measure defeat has been a high-profile, critical test. People are unanimously in favor of reforming police. Colin Strother, a Texas-based Democratic strategist, said that if we use the word “defund,” we lose the argument. “Democrats who keep saying ‘defund police’ are only hurting their own cause and the cause, quite frankly.” The ballot proposition asks voters if they would like to replace the Minneapolis Police Department by a Department of Public Safety. It does not use the term “defund” and critics claim that it was an attempt by the majority of City Council members conceal their intentions. Ellison, who is a strong supporter, stated in an interview that the amendment supporters want more tools to ensure public safety than a police-only model. They want more people with expertise in mental health and housing, violence reduction, intervention, and other areas to help them deal with the situations that armed police are currently facing. He is wary of the expression “defund police”, which he described as “a cry for change” that stems from “young people outraged at George Floyd’s death.” Ellison stated that he doesn’t use it and calls it “hot rhetoric, but not a policy or program” that doesn’t accurately reflect what the amendment would do. He also dismissed the notion that Democrats should be wary of supporting the amendment and said that Republicans would attack them regardless of how the issue was framed. JaNae, a spokesperson for the pro-amendment Yes 4 Minneapolis alliance, stated that she is frustrated by the divisions within Democrats. She said that those who portray the proposal as defunding police use “fear-based rhetoric”, and a “right wing dog whistle” to distract. She stated that the new agency will include professionals who are trained to deal with situations where armed officers may not be able to. Bates stated that Democrats, liberals and progressives across the board want people safe. “That is the fact of the matter. Omar, who is a Minneapolis representative, claims that the amendment has “nothing radical”. In an opinion piece in the Star Tribune she stated that what’s radical was the way opponents tried to block it from the ballot. She also said that it misrepresents the effect of the amendment. The ballot question has received a lot of attention, with glossy mailers appearing all over the city and advertisements filling social media accounts since early September when early voting began. According to August’s campaign finance reports, Yes 4 Minneapolis has raised more than $1 million in cash and almost $500,000 in in-kind donations. The money it raised included $500,000 in seed funds from the Open Society Policy Center. This center has connections to billionaire George Soros. It has stressed the importance of change and reassured voters that the new structure would make everyone safer. It also refuted suggestions that passage would lead to the departure of Medaria Arradondo (the city’s Black chief), even though Arradondo stated passage would make it “wholly unbearable for any law enforcement leader.” However, All of Mpls has raised more than $100,000 in its first weeks, mostly locally. The amendment, which leaves it up to the City Council to decide the details of the new department’s operation within a very short timeframe following the election, has led to it playing up the uncertainty. Larry Jacobs, University of Minnesota political scientist, said that the “defund” issue helped Republicans to hold their ground in Minnesota’s legislative elections in 2020 despite Joe Biden being elected statewide. He stated that it was clear to Democrats that “defunding police” was an effective strategy for Republicans back then, and could again. U.S. Rep. Nicole Malliotakis of New York won a Staten Island seat by running against defunding the police. On a platform that rejected activists’ calls for defunding police, Eric Adams, a moderate Democrat, won New York’s mayoral primaries in July. U.S. Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney of New York is the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s chair. He has criticized the “defund” rhetoric by pointing out that the March American Rescue Plan stimulus bill contains $350 million to support police departments. According to Republican strategist Billy Grant, Craig’s likely opponent is former Marine Tyler Kistner, “If this thing passes, which many people believe and assume it will,” there will be huge national backlash, not only in Minnesota. “People will say that they have shown they can do it. This will have a domino effect.
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