Ramsey County Attorney candidates talk public safety, reducing violence, and justice

Incumbent Ramsey County Attorney John Choi is being challenged by Luke Kyper Bellville in this year’s election for the position. 

Choi has served as county attorney for two, four-year terms. Bellville has run for a judge’s seat in Hennepin County and last year, for a St. Paul School Board seat.

The candidates answered questions via email including why they are running, what skills and experiences they will bring to office, what they believe to be the top challenges the county faces and what issues or projects they would prioritize if elected. 

 

Bellville, 45, lives in St. Paul with his wife Jessalina. He is self-employed and has a JD from the University of North Dakota. 

Bellville said the experiences and skills he would bring to office would be those he has from being a lawyer.

He said he decided to run for county attorney because, “It is the honor and duty of every citizen in a democratic society to participate, to whatever extent, in the democratic process.”

He also pointed out that only one person ran in the last election for Ramsey County Attorney.

“This does not strike me as being so much an election, as a choice of one. That said, during this election year I am determined to make it a real choice, a choice between two parties, rather than simply one.”

On the top challenges he sees the county facing, Bellville said, “I see the top challenge as a battle of class warfare where the lower 99 [percent] of the population is, as Warren Buffet has said, losing the fight.”

If elected, Bellville said the issue he would focus on would be reducing violent crime.

“If people do not feel safe, something is wrong. People should be always safe to enjoy their days and nights, without fear of being harassed, or accosted.”

 

Choi, 48, is married to his wife Youn. He was first elected to serve as Ramsey County Attorney in 2010 and was re-elected in 2014. 

Choi has a JD from Hamline University. He also has a degree in psychology from Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

Choi said the experience and skills he would bring to office include serving as St. Paul City Attorney from 2006 to 2010, his past eight years of serving as Ramsey County Attorney, having “employed thoughtful, creative solutions to complex problems as a public official, a keen sense of how community values intersect with justice,” and that he “understands that our community’s values set the agenda for my work as county attorney.”

Choi said he is running because, “I am a minister of justice. My job is not solely to seek convictions, but to do justice,” and that he seeks to bring the community together to help solve problems. 

Choi said the challenges he sees the community facing include combating gender-based violence like sex trafficking, sexual assault and domestic violence. He said he would work on this challenge by engaging men to “transform our culture and continually improving our system’s response.”

Another challenge Choi sees is, “Building trust in the justice system by increasing transparency, ensuring our workforce is reflective of the community we serve and engaging those most impacted by our efforts.”

Choi said he also wants to work on “Improving outcomes for youth in our community by partnering with schools and nonprofits to improve the juvenile justice system’s response to challenging behavior.”

If re-elected, Choi said the issues he would prioritize would be public safety by ensuring that the community has a sense of security and “ensuring justice for those who become victims of crime.”

He added, “I also believe voters are interested in finding ways to make the justice system more effective, rather than simply doing our part on the criminal justice assembly line.”

Choi said citizens are becoming more interested in “increased transparency” in the work public officials do, and how to deal with the impacts of implicit bias to make sure the justice system is “fair and equitable for all.”

“Disparities are inherent in our public systems and I think a variety of incidents that have occurred over the past several years have shined a light on these inequities,” he said.

 

Election Day is Nov. 6. To find your polling place visit www.pollfinder.sos.state.mn.us.

 

-Marjorie Otto can be reached at 651-748-7816 or at eastside@lillienews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @EastSideM_Otto.

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