At the Supreme Court level, both justices up for election face a field of challengers. Justice Paul Anderson, the second most senior member of the seven-member high court, faces two opponents. One of those opponents has run twice before for a judgeship, both times unsuccessfully. The second opponent we are awaiting further information on. Justice Lorie Gildea, the second most junior member of the court, faces three challengers in her first election. These include: a longtime public defender, a Hennepin County District Court judge and a Minneapolis defense attorney who has run unsuccessfully for a judgeship once before.
Only one of the six Court of Appeals judges up for election will face an opponent – Terri Stoneburner. Stoneburner's opponent, Daniel Griffith, has run unsuccessfully for judgeships on two prior occasions.
At the District Court level, the following incumbents will face challengers:
-- 1st District Judge Joseph Carter faces a challenge from Rice County prosecutor Nathaniel L. Rietz;
-- 3rd District Judge Lawrence E. Agerter faces a challenge from Anthony Moosbrugger;
-- 4th District Judge Philip D. Bush faces a challenger from Alan Eugene Link;
-- 4th District Judge James T. Swenson faces a challenge from Thomas F. Haeg;
-- 8th District Judge Randall J. Slieter faces a challenge from Glen M. (Jake) Jacobsen;
-- 10th Judicial District Judge Nancy Logering faces her second challenge from Luke Stellpflug (the prior one was when she was last up for election six years ago); and
-- 10th District Judge Robert P. Varco faces a challenge from John P. Dehan.
Not surprisingly, the two most contested seats at the District court level are for seats left vacant by retiring judges. Eight are running for retiring Judge John Finley’s seat in Ramsey County, and seven are running for retiring Judge Thomas Wexler’s seat in Hennepin County.
So far, it looks to be a fairly typical election cycle. Supreme Court justices almost always get at least one challenger when they run, although this is the first time in at least a decade that a single justice has gotten more than two challengers. Court of Appeals judges sometimes get challengers, but the majority of them don’t, as was the case this year. (Judge Terri Stoneburner, the one Court of Appeals judge who did, also faced a challenger when she last ran six years ago.) At the District Court level, as is typical, the vast majority of judges this year are running uncontested. Vacant seats inevitably draw a lot of interest, and this year was no exception. The number of judges being challenged in all courts is consistent with prior judicial elections in the last decade.
With many concerned that the politicized judicial races experienced elsewhere will find there way to Minnesota -- and with an effort on locally to end contested judicial races and replace them with retention elections -- the 2008 judicial races are sure to be closely scrutinized. Minnesota Lawyer will, of course, provide detailed coverage of these races in print and electronically. Stay tuned!