It was a packed house in Golden Valley’s City Hall Thursday night during the Golden Valley League of Women Voters candidate forum event.
The night was broken into three 30 minute sections and attendees listened to judge candidates running for seats 22 and 44 in the Fourth Judicial District, and Hennepin County Commissioner candidates from District 2.
Hennepin County Commissioner - District 2
Blong Yang and Sen. Linda Higgins kept the night lively with many back-and-forth comments.
Yang repeatedly reminded attendees that he would be the first person of color to ever be elected to the position. Yang also wasn’t shy in announcing that he’s raised only individual contributions during his campaign, and hasn’t taken a penny of lobbyist dollars.
Higgins relied on her some 16 years of experience as a politician, and her previous experience as a small business owner, to win the crowd. She said she was ready to work together with other districts to find solutions to common issues.
Affordable housing: When talking about the Emerson North Family Housing Development, Yang said Higgins was against the project because the housing would be developed near her home. "In the last forum, [Higgins] talked about how the aesthetics weren’t very good," Yang said. "At the end of the day, if we have development in North Minneapolis, that's a good thing."
Higgins defended herself by reminding Yang that he too was against the housing project at one time, though moderator Kay McCulley had to remind the candidates that this was a forum, not a debate.
Priorities: Yang mentioned that if he was elected he would be against the construction of any stadiums, stating the Hennepin County's priorities are "misplaced." Higgins said that human services and health care would be her major focus if elected.
Light Rail: In a question about the D1 alignment and Golden Valley's choice to oppose the Bottineau Transitway, Higgins said modern transportation is imperative to keep people working. "If you have a job, you need to get there," Higgins said. "And if transportation options can't get you from point A to point B, it makes it tough." Yang directed comments about the specific D1 alignment in Golden Valley. "The County didn't line its ducks up with the Golden Valley vote," Yang said. "Golden Valley needs to make a decision for themselves."
Judge for the Fourth Judicial District - Seats 22 and 44
Elizabeth Cutter and Steven Antolak, candidates for seat 22, spoke about their experiences as long-time attorneys and a desire to bring fairness to the judicial system.
"I believe my background and my experience make me the most qualified candidate for this position," Cutter said, mentioning that she's endorsed by a number of local and judicial groups.
"This is what drives me," Antolak said. "I know what it takes to bring a lawsuit to trial and I know what it costs to bring a lawsuit to trial. That brings a special perspective to managing the court room."
Lois Conroy and Marc Berris, candidates for seat 44, talked about the qualities that voters should look for in a judge. Experience and desire to listen to those involved in a case were two features that they both agreed were important.
"Look at the experience [candidates] have outside the courtroom," Berris said. "I've served not just as a lawyer. I've also served as licensed peace officer and deputy sheriff.
Conroy mentioned that education, and the drive to educate the public about the courts, is an important judge characteristic. "I started a program called Downtown Court Watch where we have invited judges to come and talk to community members," Conroy said. "I believe the courts have an obligation to educate the public."