Crime becoming big issue in Senate campaign
Republican Senate candidate Mark Kennedy has turned up the heat on Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar with a campaign ad this week accusing Klopbuchar of being soft on crime. Recent polls show DFLer Klobuchar has a big lead in the race. Republicans hope Kennedy's focus on public safety will help change that. The Klobuchar campaign says Kennedy's ads are misleading, and the Hennepin County Attorney is airing an ad of her own defending her record.
St. Paul, Minn. — Rep. Mark Kennedy's latest round of advertising portrays Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar as weak on crime. The ad begins with what looks like amature video of Klobuchar talking to a group about the importance of looking at peoples' track records.
"The best to look at someone to see if they're going to do good work for you is to see what they've done in the past," Klobuchar explains to the group.
Throughout the balance of the ad, text appears on the screen accusing Klobuchar of breaking previous campaign promises to crack down on drug dealers and to keep guns off the streets. The audio is a distorted repetition of Klobuchar's initial "in the past" statement.
The ad goes on to suggest that under Klobuchar career criminals in Hennepin County are offered plea bargain deals rather than being prosecuted.
A Kennedy campaign radio spot takes a lighter approach.
"Hello and thank you for calling the Amy Klobuchar for Senate hotline," the ad begins. "If you are a criminal that Amy Klobuchar plea bargained or paroled and you just want to catch-up and say 'thanks,' press three."
As the chief prosecutor in the state's largest county, Klobuchar has repeatedly claimed to have significantly reduced violent crime. According to the most current statistics from the Minneapolis police department, violent crime in the city is up nearly 24 percent this year compared to last year.
It's no surprise Kennedy is going after Klobuchar on the issue of public safety. And the Klobuchar campaign appeared ready for the attack.
The campaign released its own TV ad a couple days after Kennedy's went up. It features crime victims praising Klobuchar for her advocacy, including the mother of Tyesha Edwards. A stray bullet killed 11-year-old Tyesha four years ago as she was doing homework in her south Minneapolis home.
At the end of the ad Edwards' mother looks into the camera and says, "Mark Kennedy, you should be ashamed."
Serious crime has generally declined in Hennepin county since Klobuchar was elected in 1998. But that doesn't mean it's not an issue.
"We have a serious crime problem in certain parts of Minneapolis," says former Hennepin County Attorney Tom Johnson. Johnson is now the president of the Council on Crime and Justice. The groups tracks crime statistics. Johnson is a Democrat who supports Klobuchar.
But he says politics have nothing to do with the crime data, and the numbers clearly support Klobucahr's contention that overall crime in Hennepin county is down.
"Our crime rate is still much much lower than it was in the mid '90s -- the late '90s. While we certainly don't want to go back to that crime rate, you have to realize that the crime rate did fall so dramatically that when you do see an increase --even a relatively minor increase in the number, the percentage is going to be quite significant in terms of how you measure the increase because the crime rate had fallen so low," Johnson says.
Johnson says there are many factors outside of the control of a county attorney that effect crime rates.
Kennedy and national Republicans point to specific dismissed cases and plea bargain deals to back up their assertion that Klobuchar broke campaign promises she made when she ran for county attorney in 1998.
The Klobuchar campaign says Kennedy's crime ads are misleading and are a sign of a desperate campaign.
- All Things Considered, 09/29/2006, 5:19 p.m.