A five-member panel heard oral arguments this morning regarding the petition filed by Jill Clark, who is running for office against Supreme Court Justice Lorie Gildea.
Clark argued that it was unfair, and possibly even unconstitutional, to have Gildea listed on the ballot as an incumbent, and asked that either Gildea be removed from the Sept. 9 primary election ballot, or have her status as incumbent removed.
She also argued that since Minnesota first passed a statute putting candidates’ incumbent status on election ballots in 1949, only two Supreme Court Justices have been elected without being appointed first by a governor -- Donald Peterson in 1965, and Alan Page in 1992. That pattern indicated an unfair advantage for incumbent candidates, she said.
Arguing on behalf of the respondents, who included Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, Rice County Attorney Paul Beaumaster said it would not only be impractical and prohibitively expensive for all 87 Minnesota counties to change their ballots two weeks before the primary, but that the counties wouldn’t have the discretion to do so without the go-ahead from the Secretary of State’s office -- which would in turn need to be ordered to do so by the court.
More information on today’s hearing will be in Monday’s issue of Minnesota Lawyer.