In Minnesota, judges fill specific seats. Even though Hennepin County Court has around 60 judges, and even though approximately 1/3 of them run for office every two years, the winners are not the 20 highest vote getters.
Instead, a challenger must file for a specific seat. Usually this means that a challenger must file against a specific sitting judge.
You will notice that overwhelmingly, when an incumbent Minnesota judge is running for the same seat for the next term, they file their affidavit of candidacy on the very first day. The reason for this seems obvious: the sitting judge wants to be clear they are running for another term. And the early filing of a sitting judge might convince a would-be challenger to file for a different seat.
Lloyd B. Zimmerman was appointed state district court judge to fill the end of a term for seat 60 (Hennepin County), by Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura on December 1, 2000. Because of a provision in the Minnesota Constitution, the election for that seat was not to occur until more than one year after the appointment (Art. VI, Sec. 8), or 2002.
Some attorneys had voiced complaints about Judge Zimmerman’s behavior from the bench in the early days of his judgeship. And when the filing period to run for Minnesota judge in 2002 arrived, Judge Zimmerman did not go down immediately to file his affidavit of candidacy.
In fact, time went by, and Judge Zimmerman still had not filed to run. It was nearing the end of the filing period. Could it be he had decided this was not the right job for him?
A lawyer, Julie Delgado-O’Neil, then filed to run for Seat 60. At the point she filed to run for Seat 60, no one else had filed. After Delgado-O’Neil filed to run, and close to the end of the filing period, Judge Zimmerman finally filed.
It is not clear what happened between the time Delgado-O’Neil filed, and the time when Judge Zimmerman finally filed. The obvious question is, did it take some convincing to get Judge Zimmerman to run? This is a particularly poignant question, given that there is at least an appearance that Judge Zimmerman was not going to run. Did people convince him to run, and if so – how?
Had Zimmerman not run, our experience from other ‘open’ seats is that numerous lawyers would have run, and the public would have had numerous candidates to choose from.
At the general election, Delgado-O’Neil garnered 46.6 % of the vote, and Judge Zimmerman garnered 53.05% of the vote, and Zimmerman was in for another 6 years.
Watch for A Decade of Observing the Bench: 2003: Judge Paul A. Magnuson