MARSHALL - The Minnesota Supreme Court needs as many nonpartisan voices as it can get, Dean Barkley says, which is why the politically independent Reform Party founder thinks he is the right person to fill a seat on the Court.
"I think the Court, through the process of judges resigning early and the governor appointing successors, has become more partisan," Barkley told the Independent this week. "I don't believe that should happen. Once a judge gets appointed, they get all the advantages of having 'incumbent' with their name; a Supreme Court judge hasn't lost an election for 66 years, and I think the Court has become a much more partisan body."
Barkley is looking to break that streak this election year against incumbent Justice Barry Anderson, who was appointed to the Minnesota Supreme Court in 2004. Barkley said he and Anderson have a lot in common, and even though Anderson has received bipartisan endorsements from four former governors, Barkley thinks his nonpartisan record is something that's needed on Court.
"The Court has four conservatives that were appointed by (former Gov. Tim) Pawlenty, and I think that's wrong, I really do. That's why I decided I was going to run. Partisanship doesn't come up that often in the Supreme Court, but it does come up."
Barkley said he has nothing personal against Anderson and called him a "very good judge." He just doesn't like the way he got to where he is - through appointment.
"He's a lifelong Republican; there's nothing wrong with being a Republican, I just don't think party politics should get into our judicial system," he said. "We have enough partisanship in politics. I'm running to give people a choice to vote for a true independent."
Barkley, who spent 61 days as a U.S. senator following the death of Paul Wellstone worked with Jesse Ventura during the 1998 gubernatorial campaign. He's no stranger to elections but hasn't enjoyed much success in them. He finished third in the 2008 Senate race that saw Al Franken narrowly defeat Norm Coleman; and third in the 1996 Senate race won by Wellstone. He also ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate in 1994 and for the U.S. House in 1992 - races both won by Republican Rod Grams.
Despite the losses, those campaigns gave Barkley plenty of face time and name recognition. Just as Anderson believes Barkley's celebrity could work to his advantage, Barkley, too, looks to squeeze any kind of momentum he can out of his popularity. He said the race will come down to his name recognition against Anderson's incumbent status.
"I think that's the one chance I have to unseat an incumbent," Barkley said. "When people go to vote for a judge, most of them have no idea who the judges are, they just don't. Maybe some could name Alan Page because of his football background. That's why the term 'incumbent' is a huge thing to overcome, unless you have name recognition. I realize that's my one ace-in-the-hole."