ROCHESTER (AP) -- Republicans waded into new territory Friday and considered endorsements for judges, denying one to Chief Justice Kathleen Blatz of the state Supreme Court.
They also rejected Justices Russell Anderson and Joan Lancaster. None of the three picked up the 60 percent needed for endorsement. The justices did not -- and cannot by judicial codes -- actively seek endorsements.
After the rejections, delegates to the state convention suspended the remaining action until Saturday because too many delegates had left the convention hall. When voting started, about 1,400 delegates were present, but only 1,000 remained at mid-evening so obtaining 60 percent of all delegates became more difficult.
The delegates earlier backed three Court of Appeals judges: Jill Halbrooks, James Harten and G. Barry Anderson.
The rebuke of all three Supreme Court justices was surprising, especially so in the case of Blatz, a former Republican lawmaker and appointee of Gov. Arne Carlson.
''The decision not to endorse Kathleen Blatz is mystifying,'' said House Majority Leader Tim Pawlenty, R-Eagan.
Pawlenty is opposed to judicial endorsements in general, comparing them to ''deciding by popular vote who's going to be a good brain surgeon.''
Political parties traditionally have stayed out of such races. But some Republicans have sought the power as a way to make their voice heard in the judicial branch. The DFL didn't endorse any judges at its convention a week ago.
An abortion litmus test was present throughout debate over endorsements for eight Supreme Court and Court of Appeals slots. Blatz, however, is opposed to legalized abortion.
A flier distributed to urge rejection of Blatz called her socially liberal, too much of a social activist, soft on crime, and unprotective of religious freedom. The material prepared by Corwin Hulbert, of Crystal, did not cite specific court opinions to back up most of his assertions.
This year, four Supreme Court justices and four appeals court judges are up for election. Seven of eight judges up for re-election are Carlson appointees.
''We have a courts system that has become activist to the point that has been more than just activism, I would say judicial tyranny,'' said former GOP gubernatorial candidate Allen Quist.
Judicial codes do allow judges to receive endorsements. Last year, a U.S. District judge denied a Republican attempt to throw out the restrictions.
Matt Haapoja, a supporter of the endorsements, said the process will help voters make decisions.
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