Elections 2018: Ramsey County Commissioner, District 5

My husband helpfully pointed out that I’d forgotten to write up this race and we’re voting in it.

I’d forgotten to write it up because while there’s a primary, it’s Rafael Ortega vs. two not particularly serious candidates.

On the ballot:

Rafael E. Ortega
Charles S. Barklind
James Jaeger

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Elections 2018: Ramsey County Commissioner, District 3

(By request.)

This was one of those races where I knew there had to be some backstory, because there’s an established (long, long, long established) incumbent who appears to be a DFLer, but who is not endorsed by the DFL, and two solid challengers, one with a DFL endorsement. Here’s who’s running:

Jennifer Nguyen Moore (endorsed by the Democratic Socialists)
Trista MatasCastillo (endorsed by the DFL)
Janice Rettman (incumbent)

In races like this, the incumbent will nearly always make it past the primary, so the primary is mostly to determine who they’ll be facing. (Occasionally the incumbent comes in third, but this is nearly always a surprise unless criminal charges are involved. No criminal charges are involved here.)

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Election 2018: Ramsey County Judge, Court 28

Oh good, an easy one.

Here’s who’s running:

Elena L. Ostby (Incumbent)
Seamus R. Mahoney
Calandra Revering

I see no particular reason to get rid of Ostby. Mahoney’s web page is his attorney web site, with nothing explaining his interest in or qualifications for a judgeship. Calandra Revering apparently had her license to practice law suspended at some point. (You can read a little bit more about her here.)

Anyway, I’m going to vote for Ostby.

Election 2018: Ramsey County Judge, Court 20

There are three people running:

G. Tony Atwal (incumbent)
Elliott Nickell
P. Paul Yang

There’s basically one question in this race, or maybe two.

  • Does a DUI — and also pulling the “I’m a judge, officer, maybe just let me walk home?” card — disqualify someone from serving as a judge?
  • Even if you otherwise really like them?

(Editing to add: turns out there are some additional questions!)

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Election 2016: Soil & Water District 4

(By request.)

The two candidates in the race:

Lena Buggs
Carrie Wasley

So here’s the most startling thing about this race: Lena Buggs is actually running. She has an honest-to-God actual campaign website and she has printed up yard signs and she has a Facebook page for her campaign.

I cannot even begin to tell you how weird this is! She really wants this job. She is working really damn hard for this job.

Carrie Wasley is the incumbent. I wrote about her two years ago, using primarily this one interview she did as a source. I’ve found basically nothing more up-to-date about her. She’s still the incumbent and still endorsed by the DFL. (Lena is endorsed by the Greens, who have a statement about her along with their other candidates here.)

Honestly, if I were voting on this one I think I’d vote for Lena just because she wants the job enough to really work for it.

(It looks like I voted on this two years ago, but they’ve now split up the districts such that you only vote for the seat in your actual district, instead of having official districts but voting county-wide.)

Election 2014: Voting Recommendations, St. Paul Ballot (Contested Offices Only)

Important election day note: the poll workers at my polling place were telling everyone to shut off their cell phone. You may want to bring a hard copy when you to vote, just in case.

Note: This is based off the sample ballot in my own precinct, which may be slightly different from yours. I suggest you go to http://myballotmn.sos.state.mn.us/ and put in your own address to see your own ballot so that you can research any miscellaneous races that I might not have covered. I’ll be back later with the Minneapolis ballot.

U.S. Senator
AL FRANKEN

U.S. Representative District 4
BETTY MCCOLLUM

State Representative District 64B
DAVE PINTO

Governor & Lt Governor
MARK DAYTON AND TINA SMITH

Secretary of State
STEVE SIMON

State Auditor
REBECCA OTTO

Attorney General
LORI SWANSON

County Commissioner District 5
RAFAEL E. ORTEGA

Soil and Water Supervisor District 4
CARRIE WASLEY

Associate Justice – Supreme Court 2
WILHELMINA (MIMI) WRIGHT

Associate Justice – Supreme Court 3
DAVID LILLEHAUG

Election 2014: Rambling on Judicial Races

How to choose judges is not something Americans exactly have a consensus on. In Minnesota, we have elections, but a lot of the time there’s sort of an end run around this by appointing people mid-term so that the first time they stand for election, they’re running with the advantage of incumbency. A few years ago the major parties started endorsing judges — I can’t remember where previously there was a rule against it, or if it was just not the custom. Judicial candidates tend not to trumpet their party endorsements and instead let you know subtly by mentioning various prominent people with known party affiliations as “supporters.”

There’s a group in Minnesota that’s lobbying to change the way we do judicial elections. They suggest a merit-based appointments system after which judges stand election every four years with a yes/no vote. I tend to think this would be a better way to do it, because it means that if someone’s really incompetent we can just focus on getting people to vote NO on that particular judge.

I am not personally an expert on all the different ways out there to pick judges. My father, on the other hand, actually is exactly that sort of expert. Actually, he’s expert on lots of things: he’s a Political Science professor with a specialty in the American judicial system, and he’s studied comparative judicial systems, the effect of contingent fees, mediation, and he did one project we all called the Lawyers in the Mist project where he spent about six months observing lawyers interacting with clients (with the permission of the clients.) Next year, his book Justices on the Ballot: Continuity and Change in State Supreme Court Elections is coming out from Cambridge University Press, and anyone who’s got a strong investment in the question of how we choose judges might want to take a look.

Possibly the finding from my father’s recent research that I found the most entertaining: there really is a town out there that elects its dogcatcher (well, “Animal Control Officer.”) So if you’ve ever heard heard somebody joke that Ole Savior couldn’t get elected dogcatcher, there’s actually a town he could move to where he could, in fact, add that to his collection of electoral losses.

The problem of avoiding partisanship in judicial races is one that doesn’t have a simple solution. My father gave me an extended explanation of a convoluted system that involves merit, a committee that makes recommendations, confirmation by elected officials (but with some rules in place to discourage them from turning anyone down without a good reason), and retention elections.

Alternately, you can just throw in the towel and embrace partisanship, which is more and more what Minnesota is moving to, I think.

Of course, there are all sorts of issues I want to avoid in the judiciary that are not as straightforward as liberal vs. conservative. I am very wary of judges who would assume that the police would never, ever lie (I kind of expect some degree of pro-police bias in judges, but in a situation where a dozen witnesses plus the physical evidence say one thing happened and a police officer says another thing happened, I want a judge who will be willing to at least ENTERTAIN the possibility that the cop is lying.) I am similarly wary of judges who have a bias toward the bigger, wealthier party in lawsuits, or who fail to realize the impact of being the target of a SLAPP suit has on private citizens. Finally, the sad fact is that when people run against incumbent judges, they’re frequently flakes or weirdos. I have a strong anti-flake bias regardless of office.

Anyway, at the moment most judges have dignified, non-partisan web sites that seek to communicate gravitas and hint in only the most discreet ways at whether they’re likely to swing liberal or conservative. Makes it harder. But! We are weeks away from the election so I’d better get going on this.

Just a note: I am only planning to research and write about the contested judicial races. (If there’s a serious write-in campaign happening in any of the uncontested races, please let me know.)