Hennepin County District Court Judge Deborah Hedlund's statement on her Facebook page that her opponent, Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea, has canceled debate appearances with her six times is itself debatable, according to Gildea's campaign.
As we blogged before, Hedlund has an entry on her Facebook page asserting that Gildea is "trying to get [her] opponent to show up for a debate. [Gildea] has canceled six times now."
Gildea's campaign chair, Minneapolis attorney Sue Holden, contested Hedlund's characterization of the facts. While acknowledging Gildea was unable to participate in a League of Women Voters' debate due to scheduling conflicts, Holden said Hedlund's statement that Gildea has "canceled" numerous other appearance is incorrect.
Contacted by Minnesota Lawyer, Hedlund explained that the league's debate was rescheduled twice to accommodate Gildea, ultimately to no avail. Hedlund also said she and Gildea were slated to go before the Pioneer Press editorial board earlier this month, but Gildea had another scheduling conflict. (The two are now scheduled to go before the paper's editorial board tomorrow.) Hedlund also said a radio appearance on Minnesota Public Radio had to be rescheduled twice. (Currently the appearance is scheduled for next week.) Hedlund also pointed out that Gildea declined to appear with her on two Ramsey County cable access shows.
For her part, Gildea reported that she is extremely busy with the combination of her judicial duties and campaigning statewide during her off time. The justice said she has to pick and choose her appearances, and frequently runs into conflicts. Moreover, she noted that two of the allegedly "canceled" joint appearances -- the Pioneer Press editorial board and MPR -- are still happening, they have just been rescheduled. (Gildea and Hedlund are slated to go before the Pioneer Press tomorrow; they are scheduled to appear on MPR next week.)
Additionally, Gildea and Hedlund have a joint appearance tonight. Both have RSVP'd to be among the judicial candidates who will address attendees at the 8th District Bar Association at its meeting at Dangerfield's in Shakopee. (Eighth District Bar President Colleen Goggins King told me that the meeting will likely have double the usual number of attendees. The function room being used holds about 70 people, and a capacity crowd is expected.)
Hedlund is still hoping for a debate with Gildea (none of the scheduled joint appearances will be in debate format ). Hedlund said she is willing to appear any time and any place of Gildea's choosing.
While Gildea said she is fine with the joint appearances and even a candidates' forum, she takes issue with the idea of a "debate" used in the context of a judicial campaign. Debating "hot-button issues" is for legislative races, not judicial ones, she said.