Nekima Levy-Pounds, attorney and activist, announces bid for Mpls. mayor

Nekima Levy-Pounds chants with activists.
Nekima Levy-Pounds chants with activists after a press conference at a Black Lives Matter protest last year in Minneapolis. On Monday, she said she's running to be the city's mayor.
Courtney Perry for MPR News file

Nekima Levy-Pounds, an attorney and prominent civil-rights activist, said Monday night that she will run for mayor of Minneapolis.

The outgoing Minneapolis NAACP president says her campaign will focus on racial disparities, particularly on the unemployment and underemployment rates, as well as an "overhaul" of the criminal justice system.

"There are many people who share my discontent with the current administration and we are ready to see a paradigm shift in the city," she said. "I think that I can help deliver that paradigm shift."

While Levy-Pounds said she will run as a Democrat in the 2017 election, she hasn't decided whether to seek the DFL's official endorsement. In 2013, the party didn't endorse any of the 35 candidates.

Current Mayor Betsy Hodges hasn't announced whether she'll run for reelection.

Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges
Minneapolis mayor Betsy Hodges
Tim Nelson | MPR News file

Asked how she'd position herself against Hodges, who won on a platform of addressing racial disparities, Levy-Pounds said her "record speaks for itself, as a layperson and a civil rights attorney who's been on the front lines fighting for racial, social and economic justice."

Levy-Pounds has become a familiar face in Minnesota and nationally, especially after leading rallies following the fatal police shooting of Jamar Clark in Minneapolis last fall.

Her official announcement of a mayoral bid will come Tuesday — the one-year anniversary of Clark's killing.

"What happened to Jamar Clark, unfortunately, is a part of a pattern of issues that have impacted communities of color in the city of Minneapolis for a very long time," she said.

Levy-Pounds first started weighing a mayoral run in spring, she said. That was around the time she left her post as a law professor at the University of St. Thomas to become a full-time "freedom fighter."

Minneapolis mayoral elections come one year after presidential contests.

Watching the 2016 campaign cycle, Levy-Pounds said she "was really dismayed and horrified to see so much racial hatred being espoused."

That sentiment will likely play a role in her mayoral run.

"I believe that Minneapolis has the chance to do things differently," she said, "and to be a national leader in showing what true racial inclusion and equity is all about."

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