Election 2014: 4th District (Hennepin County) Court, Judge 61

This is the last of the elections on either my St. Paul or my former Minneapolis ballot. If anyone has special requests for coverage of a Minneapolis or St. Paul race that wasn’t included, let me know in the comments or by e-mail.

This is another open seat. They’re replacing Judge Robert M. Small, who was appointed in 2006 and first elected in 2008, and is not running again.

AMY DAWSON
BEVERLY J. AHO

Amy Dawson

My older daughter Molly is raising money with a group of fellow 4-Hers for a trip to Washington, D.C. (The Citizenship Washington Focus Program, for the former 4-Hers who know what that is.) They’ve been raising money by raking leaves, and week before last, Amy Dawson came by to door-knock the person whose leaves they were raking and stopped to chat with the high school kids. Molly said she seemed really nice; this made me like her, because really, politicians who stop to chat with high school kids always score points with me but even more so when one of them is my daughter.

Her endorsements are a hit parade of Democrats, from the sprightly young kids like City Council Rep Andrew Johnson to the middle-aged respectable ones like Betsy Hodges and Keith Ellison to the elder statesmen (can you be a statesman in the state legislature or do you have to be a U.S. Senator or something?) like Wes Skoglund. (She also got former Republican Governor Arne Carlson’s nod.)

She’s been primarily a litigator, and specifically in the last few years has worked at the Autism Advocacy and Law Center, which she founded in 2009. I immediately went to check up on them, and here’s what I found:

* They ARE NOT a bunch of anti-vaccine whackjobs. (That would’ve been an instant dealbreaker, no matter who had endorsed her.)

* They do not run horrifying ads comparing neurological differences to having your children taken by a kidnapper or appear to be connected to the obnoxious organization that does.

* They provide a lot of seriously useful specialized legal services for families with developmentally disabled kids, such as helping parents file for guardianship if their no-longer-a-legal-minor child is not able to live independently; providing family law services like helping you with a custody dispute when your kid is disabled (that strikes me as a situation where you would really really really want a lawyer to understand your situation); estate planning (especially setting up trusts); and criminal defense/juvenile law (when the defendant is autistic), and again, that strikes me as a situation where an expert lawyer is going to be of obvious benefit.

* They have done advocacy work to get ABA covered by insurers, among other things. ABA is somewhat controversial, both among autistic adults and among some parents of autistic children. I’ll note that their focus here was not exclusively on ABA but on “medically necessary care” more generally, but they do specifically mention ABA because so many insurers explicitly excluded it.

In her “Meet Amy” section the site mentions that Amy’s son is autistic, and received early intervention behavioral therapies that helped him go from being completely non-verbal, to succeeding in a mainstream classroom; “he loves reading, math, soccer, hockey and baseball.” It also showed a picture of them at Camp du Nord and that made me wonder if I thought she looked a little familiar because we went to camp together. I looked at the pictures a little more closely and her daughter looked extremely familiar. So I showed Kiera, who said, “oh YEAH, that’s [name]! They were at Camp du Nord with us two years ago!” Soooooo in fact I sorta kinda know her but not particularly well. (Camp du Nord is a YMCA family camp. You stay in cabins or at camp sites and in the mornings, lovely counselors whisk your children off for age-appropriate outdoorsy fun and the adults in the group can go canoeing or kayaking or hiking, or they can go back to the cabin and sleep, or they can sit by the lake and sip a latte because the trading post sells them. It’s great.)

Beverly J. Aho

So where Amy’s endorsements page is a hit parade of Democrats (plus Arne Carlson), Beverly’s is a hit parade of Republicans (plus Wendell Anderson). Beverly is endorsed by Congressman Eric Paulsen, former Governor Al Quie, Sheriff Rich Stanek, and a long list of Republican state legislators (plus DFLer or two — but they swing heavily, heavily to the Republican side). She’s also endorsed by the Police Officer’s Federation.

Both candidates talk about how totally committed to non-partisanship they are and Beverly notes that she will neither seek nor accept a partisan endorsement but the names on the supporters pages telegraph where they’re likely to swing pretty clearly. (Also, Beverly saying that she won’t seek or accept a partisan endorsement reads to me as a subtle dogwhistle to Republican voters wondering why she doesn’t have the GOP endorsement, since they do do judicial endorsements, unlike the DFL.)

Interestingly, Beverly also has a child with a neurological disability, Tourette’s. (Which often pairs with autism-spectrum disorders, but she doesn’t get into that.) He was diagnosed in the 1990s and she decided to homeschool as “back in that day, neither a public- nor private-school setting could adequately accommodate their child’s needs.” She homeschooled while pursuing an evening MBA program and working at a business owned by her and her husband; this certainly speaks to her energy and work ethic. She also mentions that her undergraduate degree is in Chemistry and Computational Mathematics; she worked her way through college as a respiratory therapy technician and emergency responder; and before starting a technology company with her husband (and going to law school) she was a program manager and analyst for Control Data, “Space Systems Division, for satellite programs including the Space Defense Initiative (SDI) program, DoD programs, NASA, and programs involving long-life, deep space missions, both classified and unclassified.”

I will admit that my main reason for supporting Amy is that she’s endorsed by all the Democrats; Beverly sounds smart, committed, and hardworking (to a fault). The bottom line is that I distrust Republicans even when they come with the “acceptable” rating from OutFront Minnesota. (OutFront doesn’t endorse; “acceptable” is their highest rating.)

That said, those who have strong objections to ABA therapy might want to take a close look at Beverly.

Endorsement: Amy Dawson.

And, hey! If reading my election blogging has made you say to yourself, “gosh, I appreciate Naomi’s work so much; if only she had a tip jar!” you can feel free to go donate to the 4-H CWF Fundraising group here: https://givemn.org/project/Minnesota-Urban-4-H-Citizenship-Washington-Focus-Trip — funds raised via the GiveMN page will go toward the whole group.

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