One Republican Quietly Stumps Minority Communities

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Rich StanekRich Stanek, a Republican, who’s running for Hennepin County Sheriff, emerged at a Somali event Saturday, a member of the community, who’s sprinkling his campaign literature, in tow.

Stanek, who commands the Criminal Investigations Division of Minneapolis Police Department (MPD), has yard signs all over the Somali malls and other minority businesses.

At times, his signs are inches away from those of Keith Ellison, a Democrat, who not only endorsed Stanek’s opponent, Juan Lopez, but spearheaded an effort that led to his resignation as the Public Safety Commissioner two years ago.

Stanek, a 23-year veteran of MPD, admitted to making racial epithets in a deposition during one of three police brutality cases against him in 1989.

He apologized for making insensitive remarks, but Ellison and a cadre of African-American activists questioned the timing of his apology, which was days before his confirmation hearing in the state legislature in 2004.

Unwitting Partners

But now, Stanek and Ellison are unwitting partners—in many circles.

Stanek is being backed by the same people who support Ellison’s bid for Congress. And some of the activists that led his demise are talking about “redemption.”

Insight News, a large African-American newspaper endorsed both Stanek and Ellison.

“Stanek is being challenged by some for racial remarks he made in the past. He has confronted his own past and the environment that he was pare of, that nurtures racial insensitivity” the paper said.

Stanek’s honorary campaign co-chairman is Abdulkadir (Dalmar) Hashi, the president of Somali Business Association of North America, who also actively campaigns for Ellison.

“He shows us more interest,” he said of Stanek. “And he regretted his past.”

Hashi, whose office in the Somali mall, Karmell Plaza, is filled with Stanek and Ellison signs, said Stanek has been “instrumental” in dealing with crime in the mall and helped increase police patrol. The Somali community, he added, isn’t affiliated with one political party, but “awesomely rewards whoever approaches them.”

From mosque arson, to an event condemning assassination attempt against Somali president in Brian Coyle, to crime scenes in Karmell Mall, Stanek is fixed on events important to the community.

“I want to do something about the real challenges facing the community,” he said in an interview. “Many law enforcement agencies don’t understand the Somali culture.”

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