Friday, July 25, 2008
Right out of the gate, Ramsey judicial race generates some heat
The eight-attorney race for the open seat in Ramsey County is shaping up to be a hotly contested one. (The seat was left vacant by retiring Judge John Finley).
The opening salvo was fired by the campaign of Gail Chang Bohr (right), which shot off a letter to another candidate, assistant Hennepin County attorney Howard Orenstein (left), calling him to task for attending and discussing his campaign at a meeting of the Fourth District DFL Executive Committee. While court cases have cleared the way for candidates to go to political party functions, bar groups, concerned about keeping judicial races nonpartisan, have frowned upon the practice.
In the letter, Chang Bohr's campaign pointed out that the Ramsey County Bar Association planned to circulate a pledge to candidates (which it has since done) asking candidates to agree to eschew all political activities, including going to the gatherings of political parties, not withstanding the legal precedent that would allow them to do so.
Orenstein, a former DFL lawmaker, said he would not have gone to the meeting if he knew it would conflict with the pledge candidates were going to be asked to sign. He also said he downloaded and signed the RCBA pledge as soon as it became available on the group's website, and intends to abide by it. He maintained that he has no interest at all in infusing politics into his judicial campaign, and believes judicial races should be nonpartisan.
As far as campaign controversies go, this one's a pretty minor skirmish. What I think is interesting about it is that it is an indicator of how hard-fought this race will be as the eight candidates jockey to distinguish themselves in a crowded field in time for the Sept. 9 primary. (Only the top two vote-getters will earn a space on the November ballot.)