West St. Paul Police

Fact Check: State House 52A Candidate Mariah de la Paz With False Claim on Defunding Police

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The Republican candidate for Minnesota House district 52A (which includes West St. Paul), Mariah de la Paz, accused DFL incumbent Rick Hansen of voting to defund the police. This allegation is false.

Background

Last week, de la Paz commented on this site and said Hansen had voted to defund the police. Questioning the accuracy of this claim, I didn’t post the comment but instead asked de la Paz for a source, and after some back and forth, she asked me not to post the comment.

I didn’t post the comment, but this is the third time I’ve seen de la Paz make this allegation, so it seems the issue needs to be publicly fact checked.

The Allegation

de la Paz’s comment read in part:

“We need to keep our communities and cities safe by supporting and keeping our law enforcement strong, not defund it. Rick Hansen voted to defund the police. Are you ok with that?”

Mariah de la Paz

As I said, this is the third time I’ve seen de la Paz make this allegation.

She initially made it in the SD 52 candidate forum, speaking more broadly about the DFL administration: “My understanding is that the current administration at the capitol has voted to defund the police department,” (the comment come at about 24:42 in the Town Square video).

She repeated it during her Town Square Television Meet the Candidate segment, where she specifically said, “Rick Hansen, along with other DFL, have voted to defund the police department,” (the comment comes at about 3:45).

The Facts

When I asked de la Paz for a source, she pointed me to this email from the Minnesota House Republican Campaign Committee (MHRCC), which encourages candidates running against incumbent Democrats to point out that “they voted in June to allow cities to defund their police departments.”

The email, in turn, points to a Minnesota House vote (June 18, 2020, page 242) on an amendment to an amendment to a bill about police use of force. The initial Republican amendment sought to ban cities from defunding the police unless they contracted with another police force. A DFL amendment to that amendment changed the language to ban cities from defunding the police unless they made “adequate alternative arrangements” to maintain public safety. This amendment to the amendment was voted on and passed (Hansen did vote yes). The Republican amendment was then withdrawn, making the whole thing moot.

Never mind that this police accountability bill passed by the House in June was never passed by the Senate.

Here’s reporting on the House bill passed in June from MinnPost and the House. Here’s more from MinnPost on the successful police reform measures passed in July and signed into law.

Most notably, here’s a MinnPost story that gets to this specific allegation: “Nobody at the Legislature Has Proposed Defunding the Police.” (Oct. 24, 2020 Update: And here’s a rundown of this exact issue and how it’s being used in campaign mailers.)

So what do we know?

  1. Rick Hansen did not vote to defund the police. That was not even on the table or up for a vote. de la Paz misconstrued the language she was given to make a charge against her opponent. In the SD 52 candidate forum when de la Paz first made this accusation, Rep. Ruth Richardson noted that the bills passed actually increased funding for law enforcement. Also, the bonding bill that passed this month increased salaries for state troopers. Hansen voted yes on both bills.
  2. Debate was over allowing defunding the police. The MHRCC language argued that Democrats voted to allow cities to defund the police. But even that’s misleading, as the initial Republican amendment also allowed cities to defund the police. Both DFL and Republican versions banned defunding unless there was some measure for public safety. That’s where the difference comes in. The Republican version mandated it be another law enforcement agency and the DFL version had more vague language. And ultimately the amendment was withdrawn. (If this isn’t confusing enough, how about we take it up a notch: Presumably defunding the police is currently allowed. By withdrawing an amendment that put some limits on it, Republicans are the ones allowing cities to completely defund the police without regard for public safety. See how ridiculous it can get when we argue this minutiae?)

Verdict

de la Paz is wrong. Hansen never voted to defund the police.

While I appreciate that de la Paz essentially owned up to the mistake in her correspondence with me and asked me not to post the comment (saying she’d do a “positive post next time,”), she has still made this allegation two other times and not retracted it (that I’m aware of).

It’s worth noting that de la Paz isn’t the only Republican making this charge against Democrats. Other state Republican candidates are pushing the ‘law and order’ narrative and arguing that DFL candidates want to dismantle the police. President Donald Trump has accused Democratic candidate Joe Biden of wanting to defund the police, which is also not true. Even in our non-partisan City Council race we have a candidate making these attacks. It’s simply not true.

There are plenty of disagreements to be had in this political season. But let’s debate the actual facts.

For more election coverage, see our West St. Paul Voter’s Guide.

Local election coverage happens with your support.

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