ST. PAUL (AP) -- An instigator in the fight over political endorsements in judicial races filed to run for the Supreme Court on Tuesday, the same day he filed a lawsuit over rules that keep him from acknowledging his Republican ties in his campaign.
Golden Valley attorney Greg Wersal, who will run against Justice James Gilbert, was among the candidates to beat a 5 p.m. deadline to file for office. In all, more than 350 people secured a spot on the 2000 ballot in congressional, legislative and judicial races. They have until Friday to withdraw.
The biggest last-day surprise came from former Ramsey County Attorney Tom Foley, a longtime DFLer who filed in the 4th Congressional District as an Independence Party member. Foley, who has been Gov. Jesse Ventura's liaison in Washington, resigned from that position effective Tuesday. Foley also has been state chairman of President Clinton's last two campaigns.
Wersal, who lost to Justice Alan Page in 1998, wants Minnesota to abandon a rule that prohibits judicial candidates from seeking or using political endorsements in campaigns for the bench. The lawsuit he filed in U.S. District Court claims that the rule, Canon 5, violates free speech rights.
''I do not think it is much of an exaggeration to say that today I become a political prisoner,'' he said. ''I am Prisoner No. 0122816. That is my attorney license number. And if I exercise my free speech, the Minnesota Supreme Court will take away my license to practice law.''
Opponents of political endorsements in judicial contests say it threatens the integrity of a branch that is supposed to be fair, impartial and free of politics. The Republican, Reform and Constitution parties all plan to back candidates.
Foley's candidacy for the seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Bruce Vento, a Democrat, gives the Independence Party a blockbuster name in a major race. Pam Ellison, who also worked for Ventura, is the party's endorsed candidate.
Foley said he was leaving the DFL Party because he is frustrated with its set ways.
''I think the country's telling us we want independent leadership,'' he said.
Republican officials said they gain from a Foley candidacy. Tony Sutton, the party's executive director, said a Foley win in the primary would hurt the winner of a four-way DFL primary.
''You'll have two left-of-center candidates fighting over essentially the same base,'' Sutton said. State Sen. Linda Runbeck of Circle Pines is the GOP endorsee.
Trial lawyer Mike Ciresi filed to run for U.S. Senate, making him the eighth DFLer to get into the September primary. Three Independence Party members and one Republican also are seeking the seat now held by first-term Sen. Rod Grams, a Republican.
Ciresi saved the $400 filing fee by submitting a petition containing 2,942 signatures gathered in 49 counties since July 4. He said it illustrates his grass-roots support.
''Everybody should run for something because you really get a good appreciation of what it takes to do it,'' Ciresi said during a brief exchange with Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, a Republican.
On the Net:
Secretary of State: http://www.sos.state.mn.us/elections/candfile.htm
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