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Reports show spending in low-key judicial campaigns

Despite recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions that open up Minnesota judicial elections, local judge races remained low key this year.

In two locally contested judicial elections, four candidates spent at least $26,000 in total, in an effort to sway voters in the 17-county 9th Judicial District.

Greg Wersal, who unsuccessfully ran for a Minnesota Supreme Court position this year, has repeatedly taken the Minnesota court system to task, winning U.S. Supreme Court decisions to allow judicial candidates more latitude in speaking about campaign issues, to allow for political party endorsements and to accept campaign contributions.

Supporters of the traditional system, however, fear that partisan influence and more open elections will bring big-money campaigns such as in other states like Texas.

So far, it doesn't appear to be the case in Minnesota.

In the two local races, spending was low considering the large geographic campaign area, and most contributions came from family members.

The big spender was Darrell Carter of Bemidji, who reported spending $16,055 while raising $16,710 in campaign finance reports filed by Oct. 25 with the state Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board.

Carter was unsuccessful in his challenge of Beltrami County District Judge Paul Benshoof, who reported spending $4,787 and raising $9,113.

In the other race, Clearwater County District Judge Paul Rasmussen of Bagley reported spending $4,161 while raising $6,523.

His challenger, former Beltrami County District Judge Terrance Holter of Bemidji, did not file a report by the Oct. 25 deadline and hadn't filed one as of Thursday. But his pre-primary report filed July 27 showed $4,847 in expenses and no report of contributions.

Rasmussen won re-election.

Carter in his $16,710 of contributions showed $4,020 as in-kind contributions and $622.64 as a political committee contribution from the 9th Judicial District Committee, a committee sponsored by the Minnesota Republican Party.

The candidate contributed $9,990 to his own campaign. Also listed are Kurt Benson of Blackduck, $150; Janet Bonovich of Calumet, Minn., $120; Randy Cwikla of Bemidji, $2,000 in-kind for billboards; Sandy Cwikla of Bemidji, $2,000 in-kind for billboards; Mark Gazelka of Bemidji, $150; Paul Ritter of Remer, $200; and, Trena Wiley of Blackduck, $200.

Carter reported $16,055 in expenses with $4,020 in-kind. He reported a cash balance of $655 on Oct. 25.

Benshoof reported $9.113 in contributions with $1,800 as in-kind contributions, $1,500 of it from S.A. Tenney of Mountain View, Calif., for web design services.

Contributions include Ward Benshoof of Glendale, Calif., two separate donations of $971 each; Kaleigh Frey of Bemidji, $242. Benshoof also took out a $4,500 loan.

Benshoof reported $2,827 cash on hand on Oct. 25.

Rasmussen took out a $2,000 loan for his race, and received $4,523 in donations, for a total of $6,523.

Donors included Rodger Hagen of Shoreview, Minn., $200; Betty Rasmussen of Bagley, $200; Ed Rasmussen of Bagley, $1,200; Pamela Rasmussen of Minnetonka, $1,500; and, Susan Rasmussen of Erskine, $348.

He reported a cash balance of $2,363 on Oct. 25.

Holter, in his July 27 report, filed only one page, that of expenses, with $3,477 for yard signs as the largest expenditure.

Bemidji's Tim TIngelstad, who waged a statewide battle to unseat Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page, reported raising $18,041, with $13,435 in individual contributions.

He reported $1,050 from political parties with $250 from the 7th Congressional District Republicans, $250 from the Pipestone County Republicans and $200 from the Wadena County Republicans. Reported as unitemized party contributions was $400.

He received $200 from the Twin Cities Republican Association. He also reported $3,256 in loans.

Tingelstad reported spending $12,771 and had $5,271 cash on hand on Oct. 25. Having run previously, the report showed total loans payable of $15,919. He started the year with a $1 cash balance.