MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) — Hennepin County’s former chief public defender is now running to be its top prosecutor.

Mary Moriarty announced Monday morning she will run for Hennepin County attorney. Current county attorney Mike Freeman said earlier this month he will not run for re-election after serving more than two decades across two stints in the position.

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“The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office could be a powerful partner to lead transformational reform in the criminal legal system, but we need a leader who has the experience, vision, and courage to create meaningful and lasting change,” Moriarty said. “I believe I can be that leader on behalf of all Hennepin residents.”

A New Ulm native and graduate of the University of Minnesota law school, Moriarty began her career in public defense right after college.

Moriarty was appointed chief public defender in 2014, and served until 2020, when the Minnesota Board of Public Defense voted not to renew her contract. According to her campaign website, the state agreed to a $300,000 settlement after she challenged the loss of her post.

Before the board voted not to renew her contract, Moriarty was suspended for three months following allegations she used inappropriate language and fostered a culture of fear.

In her campaign announcement, Moriarty said she will “push for racial equity in prosecutions, greatly expand restorative justice and diversion programs, and hold police accountable by declining to charge cases where Constitutional rights or department policies have been violated.”

Moriarty told WCCO in an interview Monday that it’s a problem if people don’t know what the county attorney does.

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“What I want to do is to build trust in the county attorney’s office and the way to do that is to build relationships by being accessible to the community, transparent and accountable,” Moriarty said.

The office handles thousands of cases a year, including prosecuting felonies, and advocates for crime victims.

Moriarty says her two passions that she would bring to the job are system reform and racial equity.

“I understand the trauma of both people who come into the system who have been accused, and also the trauma of people who have been victimized and harmed,” she said. “I’ve seen all of that.”

Moriarty has never prosecuted cases.

“I’ve watched prosecution for decades,” she said. “I know how it works, I know how they react, and I can think way outside the box, so I actually think that’s a benefit that I haven’t been part of prosecution.”

Some of her priorities if elected include “treating kids as kids,” holding police accountable for policy violations, disincentivizing pretextual police stops in order to address racial disparities, and emphasizing restorative practices as an alternate to prison. Data shows restorative justice can be effective at lowering recidivism.

Minnesota House DFL Majority Leader Ryan Winkler says he’s also considering a run for Hennepin County attorney.

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(© Copyright 2021 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

David Schuman