The Jim Toy Community Center has released the results of its first municipal candidate questionnaire for the 2014 primary elections. The center received responses from 25 candidates, answering questions that were designed to gauge and elicit commitments to LGBTQ issues and equality. Candidates’ responses were then coded and rated on a five-point scale. All but two of the candidates received 4, 4.5 or 5 points. [Source]
The Washtenaw County Democratic Party is hosting a forum for candidates in county judicial races this morning (July 19, 2014) at 10 a.m. at the Pittsfield Township Hall on Michigan Avenue near Platt Road.
The Chronicle plans to provide a live audio broadcast from the event. The embedded live-stream player below will be replaced with an audio recording after the event is over.
Two contested races will appear on the ballot for the Aug. 5, 2014 primary – one for the circuit court and the other for the probate court.
The circuit court tries felonies and criminal matters, family law, and civil disputes where claims are greater than $25,000. However, the docket for this particular seat on the circuit court is heavily weighted …
Attorneys Carol Kuhnke and Jim Fink, the top two vote-getters in the Aug. 7, 2012 primary, are now vying for a vacancy on the 22nd Circuit Court bench to be left by retiring judge Melinda Morris. The nonpartisan judicial elections on Nov. 6 are for six-year terms.
At a candidate forum held in Ann Arbor’s Bach Elementary School cafeteria earlier this month, sponsored by the Washtenaw County Bar Association and the Old West Side Association, Kuhnke and Fink fielded questions on fairly standard topics: judicial temperament, experience, role models and the like.
In addition, Kuhnke and Fink have both provided written responses to questions on the League of Women Voters vote411.org website. And they previously participated in a June 23 forum for the primary race covered by The Chronicle, which included a total of four candidates.
Of her $82,018 total, Kuhnke has raised $46,738 since the primary election, and had spent just $13,892 between the primary and the close of books on Oct. 21. That left her with $34,405 to spend in the final two weeks of the general election campaign. Of his $93,465, Fink has raised $37,635 since the primary, and has spent $20,967 during the same period. He has $21,417 left to spend in the final two weeks.
Kuhnke has been practicing law for 18 years, longer than Fink’s 14 years, and is campaigning with the slogan, “The most experienced.” Fink is inclined to add to the mix his previous 20 years of experience working in law enforcement, starting in 1977 as a Washtenaw County sheriff’s deputy and moving up the ranks to commander.
Fink argued implicitly that the quality of the endorsements he’s received – from local judges – is better than some Kuhnke has received, from judges in other counties in southeastern Michigan where she’s argued cases. One local judge, Tim Connors – who is seeking re-election to the 22nd Circuit Court in a separate race against Mike Woodyard – is listed on websites for both Fink and Kuhnke among their endorsements. Connors and Woodyard participated in the Oct. 16 forum with Fink and Kuhnke – their responses are included in a separate Chronicle report.
Fink challenged any perception that he felt entitled to the judgeship based on the service of his father and older brother as judges, by stating it’s not the case that he felt entitled. He described how he’d always planned to practice law, even though he took a “side trip” to work in law enforcement.
Kuhnke described her vocation to the law as stemming in part from her undergrad studies in philosophy, and the impact that the meaning of words can have on people’s lives. She was matter of fact in drawing out one contrast between herself and Fink: “I’m a woman.” She thinks that having a woman’s voice on the court is important, but stated that she did not think she deserved a vote just because she is a woman.
An issue related to women’s health was highlighted in a question fielded from the audience. Fink is endorsed by Right to Life of Michigan – so the question related to whether Fink had pledged to rule against young women who were requesting a “judicial bypass” for permission to have an abortion. Fink was emphatic in stating that in order to receive that organization’s endorsement, he’d made no such pledge and that he hadn’t been asked such a question.
Even though the judicial bypass question came last at the forum, this detailed report of candidate responses begins there.
Earlier this month in the cafeteria of Bach Elementary School, four candidates for two spots on the 22nd Circuit Court fielded questions as part of a forum sponsored by the Washtenaw County Bar Association and the Old West Side Association. The nonpartisan judicial elections are for six-year terms.
This write-up includes some of the responses of candidates in just one of those races, described on the ballot at the “incumbent position.” The ballot itself also labels the incumbent, Tim Connors, as “Judge of Circuit Court.” Voters on Nov. 6 will have a choice between Connors and Ann Arbor resident Mike Woodyard, who has worked for the last 10 years as an attorney in the Wayne County prosecutor’s office. Before attending law school, Woodyard worked for a time as a newspaper reporter.
Connors was initially appointed to the 22nd Circuit Court in 1997 by then-Gov. John Engler, a Republican, to replace judge Karl Fink – the older brother of Jim Fink, who is running in the other race along with Carol Kuhnke for the non-incumbent 22nd Circuit Court judgeship. Before making the circuit court appointment, Engler had previously appointed Connors in 1991 to a seat on the 15th District Court in Ann Arbor.
Vacancies created by resignations, like that of Karl Fink, are filled through gubernatorial appointments – but judges must stand for election at the first opportunity to serve out the remainder of the partial term. After being appointed in 1997, Connors stood for election in 1998, and then again in 2000 and 2006 for successive six-year terms. On each of those three occasions, Connors was unopposed, which is fairly typical for incumbent judges.
At the forum, that’s one reason Woodyard indicated he’s running for judge – not to run against Connors, but rather to provide voters with the kind of contested judicial elections described by Michigan law. It emerged during the forum that in law school Woodyard had taken a trial advocacy course taught by Connors, and had received an A in the class. Woodyard mentioned the class as helpful in one of his first trials, which resulted in getting a “live nude girls” establishment shut down.
The WCBA had prepared questions for the candidates covering standard topics like judicial temperament, experience and what led the candidates to consider a career in law. During the second part of the forum, questions from the audience were entertained as well. The requirement that all questions be suitable for all four candidates led to some grumbling – based in part on the fact that not all four candidates were running against each other.
Local attorney Peter Davis, who indicated he had a question just for Woodyard, responded to moderator Steve Borgsdorf’s enforcement of the rule by saying ”So you want softball questions?” Borgsdorf responded with, “No, they can be fastballs, but everyone’s got to get a chance to bat.” The analogy was apt, as at the time of the Oct. 16 forum, the Detroit Tigers baseball team was handing the New York Yankees a 2-1 defeat in the American League Championship Series.
Woodyard and Connors had previously participated in a candidate forum in June, prior to the Aug. 7 primary and hosted by the Washtenaw County Democratic Party. They also responded to five questions for inclusion on the 411vote.org website. Responses from candidates in the other race – Carol Kuhnke and Jim Fink – will be reported in a separate Chronicle write-up.
The campaign finance filing deadline was Oct. 26. According to documents filed with the state, Connors has raised $95,090 in contributions and spent $84,765. Woodyard’s campaign finance report shows contributions of $7,266 and expenditures of $6,830.
These candidates will be on the ballot for the Nov. 6 general election. To see a sample ballot for your precinct, visit the Secretary of State’s website. Additional information about local candidates and other voter information is available on the Washtenaw county clerk’s elections division website.
Tuesday, Aug. 7 is primary election day. To verify your registration, find your polling place, and even view a sample ballot for your precinct, visit the Secretary of State’s website.
Choices for most Washtenaw County offices will be easy for Democrats and Republicans alike – because many of the primaries are uncontested. Uncontested on either side of the ballot are races for prosecuting attorney (with no Republican on the ballot at all), county clerk and register of deeds, sheriff, and treasurer. Democrats, though, will have a choice will be between Harry Bentz and Evan Pratt to appear on November’s ballot as candidate for water resources commissioner. ["Who’ll Be Next Water Resources Commissioner?"]
Heavily contested is the countywide primary race for the 22nd Circuit Court judgeship, which will be open due to the retirement of Melinda Morris. Four candidates are competing for that position: Erane Washington, Doug McClure, Carol Kuhnke and Jim Fink. The top two vote-getters in the primary will appear on November’s ballot. ["22nd Circuit Court: Four-Way Primary Race"] The judicial race is non-partisan, so all voters can vote on that race – no matter which side of the ballot they choose for the rest of their votes.
Most of the primary races for the county board of commissioners are uncontested as well. But Democratic voters in District 7 will have a choice between Andy LaBarre and Christina Montague. ["District 7 Dems Vie for Washtenaw Board"]
And in Ann Arbor city council races, Democrats will have choices in four out of five wards. In Ward 1 Sumi Kailasapathy and Eric Sturgis are competing for the seat that incumbent Democrat Sandi Smith will be leaving. ["Ann Arbor Council Ward 1: Eric or Sumi?" and "Ward 1 City Council Race: Filling Sandi's Seat"]
And in Ward 5, the seat that will be left open by Democrat Carsten Hohnke is contested by Chuck Warpehoski and Vivienne Armentrout. ["Ward 5 City Council: Studying, Listening" and "Ann Arbor Council Ward 5: Chuck or Vivienne?"]
Long since passed is the deadline to register to vote in tomorrow’s election. But eligible voters have until Oct. 9 to register to vote for the Tuesday, Nov. 6 general election. Information on voter registration can be found on the Washtenaw County clerk’s elections division website.
This year, five local judicial seats will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot. Incumbents will be running for four of those positions, and three of those incumbent judges – Cedric Simpson (14th District Court, Washtenaw County); Joe Burke (15th District Court, Ann Arbor); and Darlene O’Brien (probate court, Washtenaw County) – are unchallenged.
Another position on the 22nd Circuit Court is currently held by judge Melinda Morris, who is ineligible for re-election because of her age. The state constitution requires that judicial candidates at the time of election must be younger than 70 years old. The race for that non-incumbent judicial seat is a crowded one, with four candidates: Erane Washington, Doug McClure, Carol Kuhnke and Jim Fink. All four will be on the Aug. 7 primary ballot as non-partisan candidates, with the top two vote-getters facing off on Nov. 6.
On June 23, the Washtenaw County Democratic Party held a judicial candidate forum in Pittsfield Township hall. A previous Chronicle report covered the panel with Connors and Woodyard, as well as a presentation by 46th District Court judge Shelia Johnson, one of three Michigan Supreme Court candidates endorsed by the state Democratic Party.
This report focuses on the four-way non-incumbent race for 22nd Circuit Court. Questions covered a wide range of issues, including metrics for evaluating judicial performance, views on significant Michigan Supreme Court decisions, and descriptions of each candidate’s judicial philosophy and temperament.
Circuit court judges are elected to six-year terms and run as non-partisan candidates. But partisan politics was a significant part of this panel discussion, spurred in part by a handout had been placed on chairs in the audience prior to the start of the forum, titled ”What Washtenaw Democrats Should Know About Jim Fink.” [.pdf of handout text] At the start of the forum, Cleveland Chandler, chair of the Washtenaw County Democratic Party, announced that the WCDP had nothing to do with the handout, and the other three candidates made that same claim.
Some of the questions posed to candidates – specifically related to reproductive rights and the right for gay couples to adopt – highlighted the differences between Fink and the other candidates. With his Republican affiliations, Fink acknowledged during the forum that if this were a legislative race, ”you would not even think about voting for me.” But he vowed to follow the law and set aside his personal views as a judge, and noted that he has broad support from both parties, as well as ”people who don’t care about partisan politics at all.”
While not mentioning Fink directly, the other candidates noted that values do inform judicial decisions, and implied or stated directly that their positions on issues would align with those of Democrats.
Local and state judicial candidates were the focus of a June 23 forum hosted by the Washtenaw County Democratic Party.
Most of the two-hour session, held at the Pittsfield Township hall, was devoted to two 22nd Circuit Court races. Incumbent judge Tim Connors, who has served in that position since 1997, is being challenged by Mike Woodyard, an Ann Arbor resident and assistant prosecuting attorney for Wayne County.
There is no incumbent running for another seat on the 22nd Circuit Court – because judge Melinda Morris is ineligible for re-election as she is past the statutory age limit of 70. Four local attorneys are vying for that judgeship: Erane Washington, Doug McClure, Carol Kuhnke and Jim Fink. Coverage of that candidate forum will be provided in a separate Chronicle report.
The four candidates for the open 22nd Circuit Court seat will compete in the Aug. 7 primary to narrow the field. The two candidates in that race who receive the most votes will advance to the Nov. 6 general election.
All other local judicial candidates are incumbents who are unchallenged, and will appear on the Nov. 6 ballot: Cedric Simpson (14th District Court, Washtenaw County); Joe Burke (15th District Court, Ann Arbor); and Darlene O’Brien (probate court, Washtenaw County). They did not take part in the June 23 forum. These non-partisan judicial races are for six-year terms.
At the state level, candidates for Michigan Supreme Court are also on a non-partisan ballot, but they are nominated by political parties. Three positions on the seven-member court will be contested on Nov. 6, currently held by Democrat Marilyn Kelly and Republicans Stephen Markman and Brian Zahra, whose eight-year terms end on Jan. 1, 2013. Kelly is not seeking re-election because she’ll be past the age of 70. Markman and Zahra are running as incumbents, and the third GOP candidate will be selected at a state Republican convention in September.
In March, the state Democratic Party endorsed three candidates for Michigan Supreme Court: 46th District Court judge Shelia Johnson, Wayne County Circuit Court judge Connie Marie Kelley, and University of Michigan law professor Bridget Mary McCormack of Ann Arbor.
Of the three, only Johnson, a Southfield resident, attended the June 23 forum, telling the crowd of about 50 people that this year’s Michigan Supreme Court race is an historic election, and a chance to reverse the court’s current 4-3 majority. It’s the most important race on the ballot, she said, because the court’s decisions – from reproductive rights to environmental protection to emergency managers – affect everyone’s lives.
This article includes Johnson’s presentation at the June 23 forum, but begins with a report of the first 22nd Circuit Court race between Tim Connors and Mike Woodyard.