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Crime accusations fly in governor's race

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Pawlenty on crime
Gov. Tim Pawlenty was joined at a Sunday news conference by U.S. Attorney Tom Heffelfinger (not shown) and Minneapolis Police Lt. Bob Kroll (right).
MPR Photo/Tim Pugmire

(AP) In a battle of spreadsheets and bar graphs, Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Democratic challenger Mike Hatch traded accusations Sunday over crime-fighting, with each saying the other has compromised public safety.

The lines of attack aren't new, but the delivery of each message was more personal and forceful.

Hatch responds
Mike Hatch said his predecessor, Democrat Skip Humphrey, lumped more staff under the public protection heading. Hatch's reorganization segregated consumer protection, anti-trust and law enforcement units.
MPR Photo/Tim Pugmire

At a St. Paul stop on a Minnesota flyaround, Pawlenty accused Hatch of distorting his record with claims that gang units suffered under his administration.

"His own record of public safety and public protection is quite pathetic," Pawlenty said, handing out a thick stack of figures and budget documents attempting to show Hatch has trimmed public protection staff in his attorney general's office.

Hatch disputed the Pawlenty claim, saying the charts don't account for an office reorganization he undertook in his first term. Hatch said his predecessor, Democrat Skip Humphrey, lumped more staff under the public protection heading. Hatch's reorganization segregated consumer protection, anti-trust and law enforcement units.

Hatch said Republicans have been "on a real vendetta with this office trying to cut our budget."

Pawlenty's claim that criminal cases don't get enough emphasis from Hatch don't match up with hard numbers, Hatch said, producing charts of his own.

"We have had a three-fold increase in homicide prosecutions, a four-fold increase in sex offender commitments, we've almost doubled implied consent cases," Hatch said, the last example referring to administrative actions taken in drunken driven cases.

In TV ads and other forms, Hatch has accused Pawlenty of harming public safety by cutting aid to local governments and altering a specialized gang unit.

Pawlenty said he can't control budget decisions made by cities and counties. On the Gang Strike Force, he maintains that its functions are now handled by a bigger narcotics task force with broader reach.

"The facts will show that under my watch we have put more money into building more prison space than in any time in the modern history in the state and the rate of incarceration in Minnesota of serious and violent offenders has gone up faster than any time in the state's history," Pawlenty said. "That is not an accidental strategy."

Both Pawlenty and Hatch said they would devote more state resources to helping cities on the public safety front. Hatch's public safety plan also calls for expanded drug treatment.