Candidates for Minneapolis City Council's Eighth Ward seat at odds over policing

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In a Minneapolis ward that became the epicenter of a racial reckoning on policing, voters will have just two City Council choices on the November ballot: A Democratic incumbent who favors replacing the Police Department and a Republican challenger who wants to bolster it.

Eighth Ward council incumbent Andrea Jenkins faced public backlash after a tumultuous year that tested her leadership in the section of town where George Floyd was killed. She said her priorities include public safety, affordable housing and unemployment among young people.

Her Republican opponent, Robert "Bob" Sullentrop, a civil engineer, is running on a pro-police platform, saying he has been disappointed with Jenkins' leadership and her calls to defund police.

The ballot also will include a question asking voters whether they want to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a department of public safety.

Jenkins, a poet and oral historian who serves as the council vice president, said she wants to revitalize the 38th Street and Chicago Avenue intersection, known as George Floyd Square, into a memorial site that lifts up the stories of marginalized people killed by police. Earlier this year, Jenkins supported efforts to reopen the intersection, calling the move a critical first step in reducing crime and supporting area businesses and residents.

Jenkins, DFL-endorsed, said she's not taking re-election for granted; she has been campaigning and attending community events. In June, she was blocked from leaving a Pride event in Loring Park until she agreed to a list of protesters' demands. She introduced a resolution last year, after Floyd's death, declaring racism a public health emergency and setting the stage for "a comprehensive approach to overcoming anti-Blackness and racism," she said.

"If we are to call ourselves progressives," Jenkins said, "we have to have progress."

Sullentrop, Republican-endorsed, said he strongly opposes the push to replace the Police Department.

He ran unsuccessfully for an at-large Park Board seat in 2017. He said he hasn't paid that much attention to all of the problems in his ward and doesn't go to George Floyd Square.

"My top priority is maintaining a Police Department that's going to be effective and bring crime under control," Sullentrop said. "If I'm a councilman, I'm going to vote for things that are going to be pro-police. We need more police, and we need to bring back law and order."

Faiza Mahamud • 612-673-4203

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