County attorney races close;

by Douglas Rojas

In an election where credentials and campaign expenditures topped most debates, Democratic-Farmer-Labor-endorsed Amy Klobuchar defeated her opponent and was elected Hennepin County attorney on Tuesday.
At press time, Klobuchar was leading with 51 percent of the votes over Republican-endorsed Sheryl Ramstad Hvass, who got 49 percent. The winner will take over a position DFLer Mike Freeman left in order to pursue the governor’s Democratic nomination last summer. Freeman was county attorney for eight years.
For the Hennepin County attorney race, Klobuchar spent about $296,000, whereas her opponent, Ramstad Hvass used about $517,000. Both numbers are a campaign finance record for this county.
In Ramsey County, Independent Susan Gaertner,the incumbent was narrowly reelected for a second term as county attorney with 52 percent of the vote at press time. She beat DFLer Jim Farrell, who resigned from his position as state representative for St. Paul’s East side to run for the office.
The county attorney is in charge of prosecuting major crimes in the county and representing the county agencies’ legal affairs such as lawsuits and contract negotiations.
“We are just waiting and we are hopeful,” said Klobuchar, who wanted to wait to comment until the vote was finalized. Klobuchar is a partner at the law firm Gray Plant Mooty and lives in the Marcy-Holmes neighborhood near the University.
Klobuchar proposed to streamline jury selection, which will reduce the time lawyers spend on trials that are plea bargained during the campaign. She also proposed to reform the juvenile justice system, to hold judges accountable for their sentences and to get guns out of the hands of children and convicted felons.
Klobuchar’s agenda also includes a community prosecution initiative, which will assign lawyers to specific neighborhoods to prosecute cases coming from those areas. This initiative, Klobuchar said during the campaign, will properly address petty crimes and safety issues in the University community.
Ramstad Hvass ran her campaign on similar issues: attacking gangs and getting guns out of the hands of kids and drug dealers. She also proposed to reform the juvenile justice system, to start charging for property crimes and to reduce the number of trials plea bargained and bring more cases to trial.
Ramstad Hvass was a Hennepin County public defender and judge and has experience working in federal and private law firms. She is currently a partner at the law firm Rider Bennett Egan & Arundel.
On the other side of the river, Gaertner celebrated her victory.
“All I can say is it’s looking positive,” said Peter Lindstrom, campaign aide for Gaertner. “We’re looking forward to the next four years.”
Gaertner is a graduate from the University Law School. She served for a decade as an assistant county attorney before being elected the Ramsey County attorney in 1994.
During her campaign for reelection, Gaertner relied on her proven track record and pledged to continue gun prosecution, an anti-truancy intervention program and child-support enforcement.