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Haase picks up DFL endorsement in Hennepin County attorney race

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Mark Haase is running for Hennepin County attorney.
Mark Haase is running for Hennepin County attorney, challenging long-time incumbent Mike Freeman.
Tim Nelson | MPR News

Updated: May 20, 10 p.m. | Posted: May 19, 6 p.m.

Minneapolis attorney Mark Haase picked up the DFL endorsement Saturday as he challenges longtime Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman in this year's election.

Haase received more than 65 percent support on the first ballot at Saturday's endorsing convention at Patrick Henry High School in Minneapolis.

"We're going to continue doing what we did to win the DFL endorsement," Haase, currently a government relations director in the state's information technology agency, said after the convention. "We're going to bring this message of a justice system that works for everyone, throughout Hennepin County, knock on every door, talk to people, and build the kind of support that we need."

Freeman, who ran unopposed in his last two elections, had said he would run for a sixth term this year whether or not he received the DFL endorsement Saturday.

Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman points to a reporter
Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman points to a reporter for a question inside the Hennepin County Government Center on Tuesday, March 20, 2018.
Evan Frost | MPR News

"I'm excited about the job, I think I'm still at the top of my game," he said ahead of Saturday's convention. "And I want four more years to accomplish things that are on the planning docket."

Freeman has a long record of fighting gun crimes and he's part of an ongoing campaign to require universal background checks for firearms purchases and he wants to expedite the return of voting rights to felons, among other things.

He's also president of the National District Attorneys Association which represents prosecuting attorneys nationwide.

But black activists in Minneapolis condemned his decision not to charge a pair of Minneapolis police officers in the shooting of Jamar Clark in 2015.

The shooting of Justine Ruszczyk by officer Mohammed Noor stirred more controversy. Many critics of the Jamar Clark decision noted how Freeman was willing to charge a black cop in a case where a white woman was the victim. Meanwhile, the Noor investigation strained Freeman's relationship with law enforcement.

All this has occurred as a more liberal, more activist generation is consolidating political power, with millennials like Jacob Frey and Melvin Carter taking the corner office in city halls.

Enter Haase, who is a Coast Guard vet, former family law attorney and lobbyist for the state's Council on Crime and Justice. He also helped start the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition that worked on criminal expungement reform, drug sentencing reform and the Ban the Box movement to stop employers from asking about criminal records on initial job applications.

"I've spent the last decade-plus working on making our justice system better for everyone. I've been able to use my leadership and legal skills to bring broad coalitions of people together to make significant reforms that have made a real difference in people's lives," Haase said ahead of the endorsing convention.