Election Notebook: Court challengers face uphill climbChallengers to Minnesota Supreme Court justices say that their job is tough. Obstacles challengers point out include restrictions on collecting donations, making campaigns tough to fund against better-known incumbents.
By: Don Davis, Alexandria Echo Press
Challengers to Minnesota Supreme Court justices say that their job is tough. Obstacles challengers point out include restrictions on collecting donations, making campaigns tough to fund against better-known incumbents.
Also, the would-be justices say that just already being in office carries several advantages, including “incumbent” printed by their names on the ballot and an easier time raising money as a sitting justice.
“It has been 66 years since an incumbent judge has lost an election,” said Dean Barkley, who has lost races for Congress in the Independence Party and is making his first bid at judicial office against Justice Barry Anderson.
Challengers in all three races said the current system is stacked in favor of incumbents. In most cases, judges and justices retire in the middle of their terms. That leaves it up to the governor to appoint replacements, who as sitting judges may have an advantage when they come up for election.
Chief Justice Lorie Gildea and Justice Barry Anderson have run before, while Justice David Stras, in office just two years, is in his first campaign.
Stras probably speaks for all the candidates in saying: “I feel like I am working two jobs.”
Tim Tingelstad pointed to a problem he has in working from his Bemidji home, as did Gildea opponent Dan Griffith of International Falls: “It’s a long ways down to the population center.”
While Tingelstad said that many northern Minnesotans may know him, others do not.
Another incumbent advantage is support from fellow lawyers. The Minnesota Bar Association surveys members. This year, like usual in the past, the incumbents drew far more support.
Stras and Anderson received 82 percent and 83 percent support, respectively, while Gildea won 93 percent approval.
There is a disagreement about whether being involved with political parties is allowed, or even is a good thing. While a Minnesota case that reached the U.S. Supreme Court opened judicial campaigns up for more political discussion, just how much of that is allowed remains in dispute.
Challengers such as Tingelstad have sought the Republican Party endorsement. The party’s platform calls for judicial endorsements, but none came this year.
Justice salaries are $145,981 for each of six years in a term.