U.S. Sen. Tina Smith speaks to reporters following the weekly Democratic policy luncheon at the U.S. Capitol, before the pandemic. Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.
U.S. Sen. Tina Smith, who is a Minneapolis resident when not in Washington, said Tuesday that she will vote no on Question 2 — the Minneapolis police ballot initiative — joining Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Gov. Tim Walz in opposition.
Smith, once chief of staff to former Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, said that she agrees with much of the amendment, but opposes the governing structure it would create.
“My own experience working in city hall tells me that this change will exacerbate what is a deeply flawed city governance structure, where accountability, authority and lines of responsibility between the mayor and City Council are diffused and dysfunctional,” she said in a press release.
Question 2 asks if voters want to remove and replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a public safety department prioritizing public health. The new department would be shaped by the Minneapolis City Council and the mayor.
The ballot issue has become a political flashpoint, especially among elected officials and candidates of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, which is divided on the future of policing, especially in Minneapolis.
U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar and Attorney General Keith Ellison have voiced support. In an opinion piece for the Star Tribune, Omar wrote that MPD was not equipped to deal with all types of emergencies, and that a public safety department should fit the people’s needs, including mental health resources.
U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, who is not a Minneapolis resident, came out against the ballot initiative in August. Craig, who represents the 2nd District south of Minneapolis, said in a statement that passing Question 2 would jeopardize public safety and reduce accountability: “The Yes 4 Minneapolis referendum is shortsighted, misguided and likely to harm the very communities that it seeks to protect,” she said.
State political operatives and candidates are closely watching the Minneapolis results, which could help shape their strategies during the 2022 election year, during which crime and policing will likely emerge as salient issues.
The question made the ballot over a year after former MPD officer Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd in Minneapolis, sparking worldwide protests against police violence and racism.
A majority of the City Council pledged to “begin the process of ending” the police department at an event at Powderhorn Park in June of 2020, standing on a stage bedecked with a banner that read “DEFUND POLICE.”
The progressive political group TakeAction Minnesota released a statement condemning Smith’s planned no vote, saying “upholding the status quo is not a plan.”
Vvoting for the Minneapolis election began in September and will end on Election Day, November 2.