The county attorney is on the ballot this year in Dakota County, the first time the race has been contested since 1994. We’ve asked the candidates a series of questions to see where they stand on the issues. We’ll share one question and the responses at a time leading up to the general election on November 8. See our 2022 voter’s guide for more.
What’s your guiding philosophy as it relates to the criminal justice system? How will you approach decisions and strike a balance between mercy and justice?
Here are the candidates’ responses:
Editor’s note: Kathy Keena opted not to answer our questions and instead submitted the following note. (She did answer most of our questions during the primary.)
First let me thank you for contacting me regarding the questions for the West St. Paul Reader.
That being said, my position as the Dakota County Attorney and the Oath of Office which I swore to uphold, require that my positions on matters of legislation and the law remain non-partisan. I truly believe that justice can only be served fully and appropriately by remaining such. Therefore, I cannot in good conscience answer your questionnaire.
As the Dakota County Attorney, I must support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of the State of Minnesota. In that role, one of my primary responsibilities is to oversee the appropriate enforcement of constitutionally sound laws enacted by our state legislature and to seek justice for victims. I believe that the people of Dakota County expect this and will accept nothing less than objectivity, fairness and equity in carrying out the duties of the office. Anything else is partisanship and visual bias.
Thank you to your readers for their understanding.
Matt’s guiding philosophy is to work toward safety and justice for all. This involves both accountability and judicious decision-making for returning offenders to society productively. Matt will accomplish this, in part, by prioritizing prosecuting the most severe offenses that have the deepest impact on the community as a whole. Certain policies such as traffic stops for brake light outages or ticket policies often disproportionately impact low-income individuals without the resources to make repairs. These individuals may then be forced by bail payment policies to spend time in jail simply for being poor. These policies do not make us safer and often waste time and resources, which could be spent pursuing dangerous criminals.
As County Attorney, Matt would advocate for more effective policies, such as changing charging, ticketing, prosecution policies, and ensuring that the County bail system is not used to keep nonviolent low income people accused of minor crimes from getting to their jobs or home to their kids. Matt will advocate for decriminalizing expired tabs and nonviolent low-level drug offenses; and to change the punishments for minor traffic stops to civil, not criminal, penalties. Reducing unnecessary traffic stops decreases the likelihood of violent encounters, stops criminalizing poverty, reduces the odds of unconscious racial discrimination, and ensures resources are going towards real public safety threats. In addition, Matt will lobby for those who have served their time and have entered community supervision to have the right to vote restored.
Vote on November 8
See our 2022 voter’s guide for more on the candidates and other races.
Thank you to the candidates for taking the time to respond to our questions.
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