Unless you are in a contested legislative district, you might be tempted to skip the August 9 primary election. You shouldn’t. The primary will decide which Minnesota Supreme Court candidate will be on the ballot this November. That’s hugely important. While the president, with the advice and consent of the Senate, appoints U.S. Supreme Court justices, Minnesota voters elect Minnesota Supreme Court justices, and this year they should re-elect Justice Natalie Hudson.
This year one Supreme Court seat has a contest in the primary election. Justice Natalie Hudson was appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2015 by Governor Mark Dayton, and her term expires in January 2017. She is running for re-election. She previously served on the Minnesota Court of Appeals from 2002, when she was appointed by Governor Jesse Ventura, until 2015. She was elected to that post in 2004 and 2010. She is the only Supreme Court justice who is up for election this year.
Justice Natalie Hudson is far and away the best candidate. She was endorsed by the Star Tribune, and an article in MinnPost also points to her as the only qualified candidate in this election. A Minnesota State Bar Association poll of its members showed 1099 votes for Justice Natalie Hudson, 37 votes for MacDonald, and 36 votes for Foss. In its endorsement, the Strib summarized her experience:
“Justice Hudson brings to the court a distinguished and varied legal background. She began her career as a Legal Aid lawyer representing indigent clients, then worked as a private employment attorney, and then as a law school administrator at Hamline University. She served two years as St. Paul’s city attorney and eight handling criminal appeals for the state attorney general’s office.”
As for the other two candidates:
Craig Foss was an attorney with Legal Services of Northwest Minnesota for 14 years. He says, “I have found since I was laid off in 2012 that the demand for legally blind attorneys is not high. So I decided to see if I could get elected to a job.” While being legally blind shouldn’t disqualify him for a position, it’s also not a reason to vote for him as a Supreme Court justice — nor is his inability to find another job as a lawyer a reason to vote for him. In the Minnesota State Bar Association questionnaire, he said, “I do not know anything about the candidates running against me. I want to be elected as a Judge because I am unemployed and I want to work.”
Michelle MacDonald was endorsed by the Republican party in 2014, when she ran (unsuccessfully) against Justice David Lillehaug. Shortly after her endorsement, stories about her DWI arrest, and courtroom behavior problems broke. Unable to rescind the endorsement, the Republican party nonetheless barred her from their State Fair booth and escorted her out when she tried to be there. This year, the Republicans refused to endorse her. (The Supreme Court race is nonpartisan, but candidates may seek party endorsement.) MacDonald identifies as pro-life and pro-gun.
If you’d like to hear from all three candidates, you can listen to the League of Women Voters candidate forum here.
With opponents like these two, it shouldn’t be difficult for Justice Natalie Hudson to win in the primary, or in November. With a low turnout in the primary election, however, anything could happen. So, go out and vote — Tuesday, August 9.