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Minnesota broke record in 2020 for most murders reported

MINNEAPOLIS — Violent crime increased dramatically last year across Minnesota, which saw a record number of murders, the highest number of bias crimes in 15 years and a record number of assaults against on-duty police officers.

The number of murders hit 185 last year, up 58% from 117 in 2019, according to a Bureau of Criminal Apprehension report released Tuesday.

Minneapolis police investigated 82 of last year's murder cases and St. Paul police 32, according to the agency's 2020 Uniform Crime Report. Bloomington and Rochester police each investigated five.

Overall, the rate of violent crimes increased by 16.6% compared with 2019.

Reports of robberies were up 26% to 3,885, and aggravated assaults increased 22% to 8,203 between 2019 and 2020. Arson cases and car thefts also jumped. Rapes decreased 9% to 2,222 last year, according to the report. The surge of violence came amid a year marked by economic uncertainty during the pandemic and unrest after the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Staffing and morale problems have plagued the police department in Minnesota's largest city.

Minnesota Republicans swiftly criticized Democrats, saying the numbers portray them as not being tough enough on crime.

—Star Tribune

Pennsylvania Rep. Conor Lamb preparing to launch Senate run

WASHINGTON — Rep. Conor Lamb is expected to launch a Senate campaign in August, according to three sources familiar with the Pennsylvania Democrat’s decision.

Two sources said Lamb is planning a campaign event Aug. 6 at an International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union hall in Pittsburgh, with one source noting that’s where the congressman is expected to announce his Senate run. Multiple sources spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized by the campaign to speak publicly about Lamb’s plans. Lamb’s campaign did not respond to requests for comment.

Lamb, a Marine veteran and former prosecutor, will join a crowded primary field seeking to replace retiring GOP Sen. Patrick J. Toomey. Lamb would likely be the most moderate Democrat in the race, as he’s known for a willingness to buck his party and work across the aisle. However, Lamb has been more likely of late to vote with a majority of Democrats on votes that split the parties.

Lamb’s entry into the race also intensifies a geographic divide in the Democratic primary, with both Lamb and Lt. Gov. John Fetterman hailing from Western Pennsylvania. Two other candidates, state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta and Val Arkoosh, who chairs the Montgomery County Board of Commissioners, are based in the Philadelphia area in southeastern Pennsylvania, as is state Sen. Sharif Street, who is considering a Senate run.

Arkoosh and Kenyatta would both make history if elected — Arkoosh as the state’s first female senator and the first female physician in the Senate, and Kenyatta as the first openly gay and Black man to represent Pennsylvania in the chamber.

—CQ-Roll Call

Approval ratings of Biden, Harris dip in new California poll


President Joe Biden's job performance rating among Californians has dipped slightly in recent months, even as his infrastructure and domestic spending plans register as highly popular, according to a new poll released Wednesday.

The survey from the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies, co-sponsored by the Los Angeles Times, found that Biden still scores high marks in the state. He earned the approval of 59% of registered voters, down 3 percentage points from the previous poll this spring. Biden's disapproval rating has ticked up marginally, from 34% three months ago to 37% today.

Californians' views of the president are deeply stratified by party; 85% of Democrats approve of Biden, while just 11% of Republicans do. Biden received approval from 58% of voters with no party preference.

The decline in his rating is driven by modest dips in approval from Democrats and unaffiliated voters, who may be antsy to see progress on his legislative agenda.

After Biden successfully passed a COVID-19 relief package in March, "there was a sense of momentum, that Biden is going to break through the gridlock," said Eric Schickler, co-director of the Berkeley institute. "Now a little bit of disappointment or frustration may be starting to settle in."

While Biden is still keeping the vast majority of Democrats in his camp, the survey finds they are less intensely supportive of the president than his detractors are in their opposition. Half of Democrats say they strongly approve of his job performance, while 74% of Republicans strongly disapprove.

The public's views of Vice President Kamala Harris has also slid over the last three months. The survey found that 49% of respondents approved of her performance in office, down 4 percentage points, and her disapproval climbed 5 points to 38%.

—Los Angeles Times

Georgia spa shooter enters Fulton County jail for remaining cases

ATLANTA — A day after pleading guilty to killing four people in Cherokee County, spa shooter Robert Aaron Long has been transferred to Fulton County to face charges there.

Sporting a new buzz cut courtesy of the Georgia Department of Corrections, the 22-year-old gunman was taken from the Georgia Diagnostic and Classification State Prison in Jackson to the county jail in downtown Atlanta on Wednesday morning. He was booked about 10:50 a.m., Fulton County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Tracy Flanagan said.

Authorities in Cherokee County said Long was transported to the state prison in Jackson after pleading guilty Tuesday morning in the fatal shootings of four people at Youngs Asian Massage along Ga. 92. Cherokee County prosecutors opted not to pursue the death penalty in the March 16 shooting spree, and Long was sentenced to four consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole, plus 35 years.

Cherokee County District Attorney Shannon Wallace said she was prepared to seek the death penalty but opted for the “swift justice” that concluded the first of the two cases against Long in a matter of months. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, however, has said she plans to pursue the death penalty in the Atlanta shootings, and that hate crime charges are still on the table.

—Atlanta Journal-Constitution