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.
Candidates for one of two races for judge of the 22nd Circuit Court in Washtenaw County: Tim Connors (left) and Mike Woodyard (right).
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. [Full Story]