Low-profile attorney’s race will produce high impact on citizens’ lives

Kelly Hildebrandt

As the elections draw near, well-dressed men and women can be seen walking down the streets and knocking on doors trying to gain support for whatever candidate they represent.
In the past weeks, gubernatorial and legislative candidates have walked the University trying to woo students.
But many other races, like the Ramsey County Attorney election, have gone virtually unnoticed. The race doesn’t tend to attract a lot of students, said Mark Bliven, Susan Gaertner’s campaign manager.
Gaertner, who has been the Ramsey County attorney since 1994, is being challenged by Jim Farrell, a Minnesota representative for St. Paul’s east side.
The county attorney’s office prosecutes all the crimes in the county such as burglary and sexual assault, and represents Ramsey County in its legal business, said Fred Morrison, a professor in the Law School.
“Students should be looking for someone who can work efficiently in both those areas,” Morrison said, adding that the county attorney should be able to manage a large office.
“They have a dramatic effect on life in Ramsey County,” Bliven said. The county attorney’s office takes the laws enacted by the legislature and actually puts them into effect, Bliven said.
Farrell is a University graduate and has spent eight years as a Minnesota representative for St. Paul’s east side. Farrell has also served as both a criminal defense lawyer and prosecutor.
If elected, Farrell would improve juvenile prosecution and morale at the county attorney’s office along with starting a one-stop domestic violence center where victims can find help. The center would allow victims to talk with police, prosecutors and advocacy groups all at the same place, Farrell said.
“He has a lot of energy that will bring the office into the 21st century,” said Heidi Buss, Farrell’s campaign manager.
To improve morale, Farrell would start listening to employees and get their input, Buss said.
Gaertner, a University Law School graduate, is the first woman to serve as Ramsey County attorney. Prior to being elected, Gaertner served as Assistant Ramsey County Attorney for 10 years.
Gaertner said she has a proven track record as county attorney that qualifies her for re-election.
During her four years as county attorney, Gaertner has implemented a truancy intervention program, cracked down on criminal gun prosecution, and improved the child support enforcement division.
“I have concerns that Farrell doesn’t appreciate what a threat gun violence is in this very urban community,” Gaertner said about criminal gun prosecution.
If re-elected, Gaertner said she will continue to make improvements in these areas. This includes putting a truancy program into elementary school. Gaertner is endorsed by Ramsey County Women’s Political Caucus.
“The key public safety issue is that people just want to be safe,” Bliven said.