Violent summer proves deciding factor for some Minnesota voters

By Audrey Conklin | Fox News

President Trump says he’s confident of winning Minnesota, despite polls that show him trailing Democratic challenger Joe Biden in the battleground state, which has voted blue for 47 years.

The president attributes his optimism to voters who blame Democratic leadership for failing to quell sometimes-violent protests after the death of George Floyd in late May and crave the law and order Trump has promised if elected to a second term.

Whether his faith will prove justified on Nov. 3, with Biden claiming a 6-point lead according to the RealClearPolitics polling average, is uncertain, but there’s no question that crime is a hot-button issue for the state’s voters, particularly with Minneapolis Democrats seeking cuts to law enforcement funding.

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The Democratically controlled city council and Mayor Jacob Frey released a budget plan for fiscal year 2021 on Sept. 22 that would trim city police department spending by $14 million.

An AutoZone store burns as protesters gather outside of the Third Precinct in Minneapolis on Thursday, May 28, 2020. (Mark Vancleave/Star Tribune via AP)

The city was the epicenter of protests following the death of Floyd, a Black man being taken into custody by White police officers. Nationwide demonstrations for racial justice, some of which called for directing funds from law enforcement to other programs, spread nationwide afterward.

“The riots in Minneapolis and the impact and devastation and all of the fallout that is continuing as we enter October are going to be on the ballot in Minnesota when voters go to the polls, whether they’ve already voted or will vote on Election Day,” Minnesota GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan told Fox News. “That is a top-of-mind issue for folks.”

Carnahan said the city and state have “been through a lot” since Floyd’s death. Rioting and looting afterward, on top of the financial pressure from the coronavirus pandemic, have taken a toll on Minnesotans.

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The Minneapolis DFL, formed in a consolidation of state Democrats and the Farmer-Labor Party, did not respond to multiple inquiries from Fox News.

The Minnesota DFL’s website says every Minnesotan has the right to live in a safe community. It supports universal background checks and gun violence protection-order bills; a ban on military-style, semi-automatic weapons; requires police training, including peaceful deescalation tactics and steps to reduce incarceration. The party opposes “Stand Your Ground” laws that give people threatened with violence the right to shoot first.

Minneapolis City Council members and local legislators didn’t t respond to requests for comment either.

Between Jan. 1 and Oct. 13, 2020, the Minneapolis Police Department recorded a total of 4,234 violent crimes and 65 homicides, up from 3,379 violent crimes, including 35 homicides, a year earlier.

Hundreds of volunteers showed up to clean along University Avenue on Friday, May 29, 2020, in St. Paul, Minn. (Elizabeth Flores/Star Tribune via AP)

An analysis from the local Star Tribune newspaper based on police data found that while the most diverse neighborhoods in Minneapolis continue to have the highest crime rates, the least diverse neighborhoods are seeing the largest uptick.

Carjackings have increased significantly, particularly those involving youths. Three teenagers died on Oct. 4 after breaking into a car, beating a 72-year-old woman behind the wheel, and crashing the vehicle, according to KARE11. Later, police found a 6-year-old boy who was briefly kidnapped in an attempt to steal the car he was in.

Zach Hudson, a former Minneapolis resident, recently moved out of the city with his wife and a 1-year-old son after experiencing a break-in and hearing about other crimes in the area.

“Prior to George Floyd, we were actually pretty happy with our neighborhood,” Hudson said. “I grew up in the suburbs and had preconceptions of what living in Minneapolis would be like, and when we decided to move here, it turned out to not be as bad as I had thought it might be. Our neighbors are fantastic, and we never had issues with people trying to break in. We didn’t really have much violent crime near us.”

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But after Floyd died, about six blocks from Hudson’s home, “it was just a week of mayhem in the city,” he said.

“We had our house [almost] get broken into, we’ve had tons of cars on our streets get their catalytic converters stolen,” Hudson said. “Just a couple weeks ago, I witnessed a shooting on the street next to my house … at six o’clock on a Sunday afternoon.”

Hudson added that the near break-in happened when nearly 500 people suffering from homelessness were living in an encampment in the park across the street from his house. Minneapolis has faced an unprecedented homelessness crisis as a result of COVID-19 and a lack of affordable housing. 

Peter Gross, who has lived in his house across the street from Powderhorn Park in Minneapolis since 1993, sees homelessness as part of a larger problem. (Photo by Richard Tsong-Taatarii/Star Tribune via Getty Images)

The Minneapolis Park and Recreation Board “established a system to temporarily permit encampments at designated parks capable of accommodating an encampment” during COVID-19, according to the city’s website.

“I don’t think anyone’s really happy with the leadership,” whether state or local, Hudson said.  “The city council has kind of flip-flopped on their decision to defund the police. At first, they came out strongly, had this big rally in the park, said, ‘We’re going to defund the police, and there’s nothing anyone can do about it,’ and now, they’re not so sure about that.”

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Carnahan, who has lived in Minneapolis her whole life and described it as a “beautiful and vibrant city,” added that spikes in crime and unrest have not only hurt families living in the area but business owners as well.

“You have so many business owners that were adversely impacted … where some of these folks — their buildings — their businesses were just completely decimated to the ground and don’t even exist anymore,” she said. “It was a lot of minority-owned businesses and people and communities that — this has been their livelihood, through not only their families but perhaps the generations before.”

A firefighter pauses on Thursday, May 28, 2020, the third straight day of protests in St. Paul, Minn. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)

Calls to defund the police gave Minnesotans “considerable pause,” and folks around the state — including in the suburbs surrounding Minneapolis — see riots and violence as a “main issue,” Carnahan added. “Those constituents have ‘concerns that Democratic leaders have failed them and continue to fail them.'”

Max Ryner, also a former Minneapolis resident and committeeman for the Republican National Committee, recently moved out of the city with his wife and two young children, though his business is still located in the city about 10 minutes away from where Floyd died.

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“There were parts of Minneapolis that were liveable and still are, to a certain extent, but it just became more and more apparent over time that there were obviously more crimes happening,” he said. “We heard police helicopters more often.”

A gas station that neighbors his business has experienced three break-ins within the past several months, and other businesses in the area are boarded up. 

“You never really get used to it,” Ryner said of crime in the area. “Everyone’s kind of on edge right now. Even though we’ve experienced so much trauma in the city and there has been so much rioting and looting that has happened already … most people feel like we’re sitting on a powder keg, and the worst is not over in the city.”

Alondra Cano, a City Council member, speaks during “The Path Forward” meeting at Powderhorn Park on Sunday, June 7, 2020, in Minneapolis. The focus of the meeting was the defunding of the Minneapolis Police Department. (Jerry Holt/Star Tribune via AP)

Locals are starting to itch for new leadership and someone to take charge of countering the crime rocking the city, Ryner said.

At the federal level, Minnesota Republican congressional challenger Lacy Johnson, who is facing Democratic freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar, “sends a really good, community-oriented message” promoting good schools and safe neighborhoods, Ryner said, which “will win the day.”

Additionally, Trump’s law and order message will appeal to voters who want strong police departments come Nov. 3, Ryner said. 

“If anyone can carry Minnesota, Trump can carry Minnesota, and if it doesn’t happen this year, I’ll be hard-pressed to think of a time when it could happen just because he is the right man for the situation that is happening in the Twin Cities,” he said. “You have a lot of silent Trump support that is happening right now in Minneapolis and in the Twin Cities.”

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