A former police officer running for governor in Minnesota is promising to restore law and order that he says has been diminished under the state’s current leadership.
Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy, a Republican, said much of the motivation for his campaign stems from the riots in Minnesota that erupted after the murder of George Floyd while in the custody of Minneapolis police last summer.
“We have to get Minnesota back on track. And as somebody who’s had law enforcement experience, mayoral experience, and small business experience, I feel like I’m the best candidate to win this election,” Mr. Murphy, 37, said in an interview.
Minneapolis became the epicenter for the resurrection of the Black Lives Matter movement that set the stage for police reform calls, some of which expanded into calls to defund law enforcement completely.
Mr. Murphy said he is shaping his campaign around eradicating that idea, instead incentivizing officers to stay in local police forces and ensuring the Minneapolis Police Department returns to full capacity.
The candidate said making sure that happens starts with being vocal about supporting police, and cracking down on violent criminals he thinks have been treated too softly by courts.
“We have to let the criminals know that you’re going to be in jail,” Mr. Murphy said. “No more looting. We’re going to shoot back. We’re going to come after you.”
But, Mr. Murphy’s hardline conservatism may be a longshot to win over voters in the liberal swaths of the Twin Cities, where most of the state’s voters live.
The candidate faces competition from a handful of other Republican hopefuls, most of whom currently hold or previously held seats in the state Legislature.
Democratic Gov. Tim Walz has not yet announced his reelection bid, but has signaled interest in pursuing another term.
Andrew Karch, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota, said while the state gets a reputation of being a liberal stronghold, he said there’s a purple streak to it that’s not widely seen.
“Minnesota, because of the results of presidential elections, tends to get portrayed as very blue, when in reality, it’s a much more competitive state than that,” Mr. Karch said. “You don’t have to go very far back to see Republicans winning statewide elections.”
Mr. Karch said Mr. Murphy’s law-and-order initiatives have the potential to appeal to certain voting demographics, while others are likely to shy away from it.
The debate over policing is likely to be a key issue when the race ramps up in 2022.
“It remains a relevant issue in the state,” Mr. Karch said, citing an upcoming ballot initiative in Minneapolis that touches on police reform.
Mr. Murphy disagrees with the contention that there are major issues between law enforcement and the Black community, but said he wants to enhance community policing to better citizen relationships overall.
“It all starts with community policing, but you have to fund community policing,” Mr. Murphy said. “When you’re screaming defund the police departments like Minneapolis and St. Paul are doing, you can’t use that funding to build community policing.”
The Republican also noted that his relationship with Mr. Walz is nonexistent, alleging that the governor does not respond to requests Lexington officials have made for their city.
“Right now, I have no relationship with Governor Walz. He does not respond to my emails. He doesn’t respond to any media requests that I have for him,” Mr. Murphy said. “He’s an absent governor.”
Mr. Walz’s office did not respond to a request for comment regarding Mr. Murphy’s claim or candidacy.
The primary election for the Minnesota governor’s race is Aug. 9, 2022.
The general election will be Nov. 8, 2022.