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Barkley name on ballot again, against Justice Anderson

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News Bemidji,Minnesota 56619
Barkley name on ballot again, against Justice Anderson
Bemidji Minnesota P.O. Box 455 56619

ST. PAUL — More Minnesota voters know Dean Barkley’s name than those of many judicial candidates, but he wonders if that is enough to erase the advantage of having “incumbent” next to Barry Anderson’s name on the Nov. 6 ballot.


Anderson, appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2004, is running for re-election, challenged by a man who has been a state official and appeared on Minnesotans’ ballots before.

“I am running against somebody who has somewhat good name identification,” Justice Anderson said while campaigning in rural Minnesota.

Barkley is on a Minnesota ballot for the fifth time, but the first running for a judicial race. He is challenging Anderson because he fears the court system is becoming partisan, like executive and legislative branches of state government.

The founder of the Reform Party, now Independence Party, said he does not claim that Anderson “is a bad judge,” but questions some rulings made by the one-time Republican Party attorney.

Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty appointed Anderson to the high court. Another Republican governor, Arne Carlson, appointed him to the Appeals Court six years earlier.

Minnesotans may best know Anderson because he sat on the 2008 state Canvassing Board, which presided over the U.S. Senate recount between Al Franken and Norm Coleman.

Barkley brings a colorful background to the race. He was a key aide to Gov. Jesse Ventura, who appointed Barkley to fill the U.S. Senate seat vacated when Sen. Paul Wellstone died in an airplane crash 10 years ago. Barkley served 62 days before Coleman took office.

A lawyer, Barkley has been a lobbyist, bus driver for disabled Twin Cities residents and campaign manager for a colorful Texas governor candidate who lost. He also ran for Congress four times.

Both candidates said politics do not belong in the Supreme Court race.

As a lawyer, Anderson sometimes supported Republican candidates, but said in 14 years on the bench he has never has seen what he considers a partisan ruling.

Anderson promotes his background as being the only justice who grew up in greater Minnesota, and then practiced there. He was a lawyer in Fairmont and Hutchinson before going to the Twin Cities.

Small-town lawyers get a wider variety of cases than those in bigger cities, he said, an advantage on the high court. “That is an opportunity to represent people in all kinds of matters, large and small.”

Like the other three Supreme Court challengers this year, Barkley questions the way Minnesota gets judges. While the state Constitution calls for their election by the public, all but one Supreme Court justice and most judges statewide have been appointed by a governor to fill vacancies left by retirements.

With partisan governors doing the appointing, “the natural consequence is that the court is going to become partisan,” Barkley said.

“I didn’t pick on Barry,” Barkley said. “I just thought he was an example of how you get onto the court that I don’t agree with.”

Anderson said that being an incumbent means he has needed experience. “I focus on my decade-and-a-half of experience.”