MINNEAPOLIS — A new attack ad by the Republican Governor's Association falsely claims Minnesota Governor Tim Walz wanted to strip funding from police.
The fact is, Walz increased funding for law enforcement twice and came out against the controversial Minneapolis city ballot question defeated by voters last year. The governor lobbied for $300 million in extra police funding this year.
The ad begins by reminding voters violent crime has spiked, and, like many GOP ads, blames Walz for that. But then the ad makes a statement that is patently false.
"But what is Governor Tim Walz's response? He pushed to defund our police," the female narrator can be heard saying.
The fine print at that point in the ad points to a Minneapolis Star Tribune article from June 12, 2020. That article simply said the governor has proposed a wide-ranging list of police reforms he wanted lawmakers to consider in the first special session after George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis Police Officer Derek Chauvin.
"The commitment across the spectrum, both political, racial, economic, for change is undeniable," Walz told reporters two days earlier.
DFL lawmakers appeared with Walz at a press conference calling for two dozen changes governing police, while Senate Republicans urged caution in the face of the worldwide reaction to the video of Floyd's death captured by bystanders.
After negotiations that ran throughout the summer, Walz signed a bipartisan package of police reforms but none of them stripped funding from police. The bill, a compromise between House Democrats and Senate Republicans, barred choke holds, required more training in de-escalation methods, and created a statewide database to track use of force by officers.
Ballot Question 2 in Minneapolis was defeated by voters in the November 2021 election. It would've replaced the Minneapolis Police Department with a Department of Public Safety and stripped minimum staffing and budget quotas set in the Minneapolis City Charter since 1961.
Walz came out against the proposal during a Minnesota State Fair interview Aug. 25, 2021, telling reporters, "I just think the debate appears to be too simplified. I think it's fraught with peril to use a slogan like 'Defund the Police' here."
The next day a Star Tribune headline declared, "Walz opposes Minneapolis ballot question to replace Police Department."
The same day the liberal group known as Take Action Minnesota decried Walz's stance in a press release, writing, "We deeply regret that he has not yet joined us in living up to his commitments to Minneapolis."
In an interview with KARE 11 on May 21, 2021, Walz said it's possible to pass meaningful reforms while still fully funding law enforcement.
"Because everything is so black and white everything is polarized along the spectrum that they want to say you’re one or the other. No one’s ever heard me say 'defund the police,' but they are also going to hear me say it’s unacceptable that George Floyd be murdered."
Walz signed public safety spending bills in 2019 and 2021 that boosted funding for the State Patrol. He also diverted unused federal COVID recovery money to help augment stressed law enforcement budgets.
In 2022 he lobbied for money to help local departments hire more officers, and to pay for a broader array of responses to persons in mental health crises. That bill fell by the wayside after Walz was unable to convince Senate Republicans to come back to the bargaining table.
RELATED: Summer special session hopes dashed
The Minneapolis City Council never cut spending for officers but left a different impression to the contrary. Video continues to circulate of a rally in Powderhorn Park after Floyd's killing. Council members stood on a stage with a banner that read "Defund the Police."
Republicans latched onto that phrase and have worked it into floor speeches, press conferences and campaign advertising, to criticize all Democrats for supporting police reforms.
Those who endorsed the failed ballot question are still paying the price politically. Law enforcement groups have backed their opponents in an effort to topple them from office.
Statewide police groups and sheriffs from dozens of counties have backed Republican Jim Schultz in his race against Attorney General Keith Ellison, who endorsed Question 2.
Rep. Ilhan Omar won her DFL primary by only a couple of percentage points over former Minneapolis City Councilman Don Samuels, who had sued to stop Question 2 from appearing on the ballot.
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