By Caroline Cummings

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Hennepin Co. Sheriff Dave Hutchinson, who pled guilty to a DWI for a crash in which he wrecked county-owned SUV driving more than 120 mph, said he won’t seek re-election this fall.

“After spending time over the past month having discussions with family, friends and supporters, I have made the difficult decision to not seek re-election,” he said in a statement from his campaign. He said he notified his staff Wednesday morning.

Hutchinson faced mounting calls to resign in the days and weeks following the Dec. 8 crash near Alexandria, including from members of the Hennepin County Board and Gov. Tim Walz. But he remained defiant and said he won’t step down before a new sheriff is elected in November and takes office in early 2023 in the state’s most populated county.

“I refuse to be pushed out of my role as sheriff by political figures with alternative motives which would likely come at the cost of safety and security to the residents of Hennepin County,” he said.

Hutchinson had a blood-alcohol concentration of 0.13—almost twice the legal limit—roughly three hours after the crash and rolled over his squad car while not wearing a seatbelt driving at one point 126 mph, according to a trove of case files and evidence released late last month. There were firearms in the car, according to documents.

Hutchinson pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor DWI charge and was sentenced to two years’ probation and fined $610.

Walz, when asked during a legislative forum Wednesday, said he believed Hutchinson should still resign from the job.

He praised the collaboration across multiple law enforcement agencies Tuesday in response to a shooting outside a school in Richfield and later added that “any distraction is probably not that healthy.”

“I do think a transition would probably be best. That’s not my place to make it, but I do think—to moving on,” Walz said.

House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, DFL-Golden Valley, who is running to be the Hennepin County Attorney, said Hutchinson’s decision to not run again was “the right one” but did not say he should step down sooner, citing the process to fill a vacancy.

“If he were to resign he would be replaced in that position by the county board,” he said. “And we have an active and ongoing campaign this year for the voters of Hennepin County to choose the next sheriff.”

Hutchinson’s resignation leaves the seat open to individuals seeking the job of being the chief law enforcement official in the county.

At least two people, Jai Hanson and Suwana Kirkland have joined the race for Hennepin County Sheriff. Hanson is a police officer for the city of Bloomington and Kirkland is the director for Dakota County Community Corrections, according to their Linkedin pages.

A year-end campaign finance report shows Hutchinson received just one $250 donation in the days since the crash almost two months ago.

David Schultz, a political science professor at Hamline University, said without an incumbent like Hutchinson on the ballot, it creates a greater opportunity for others to have a shot.

“The incumbent advantage dissuades people from running against the incumbent,” he said, talking about the upper hand of sitting officials in terms of name recognition and usually, fundraising. “When you start to open up a seat, it makes it a sort of—I don’t want to say a lottery, but a little bit of a lottery.”

Caroline Cummings