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Judicial candidates make their cases

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ANN MARIE AMES
January 18, 2012
— They disagree on whose experience is the most valid.

Each thinks he would be the best at listening to both sides of any argument.


But most of the six candidates for Rock County judge on Tuesday agreed that no matter who wins, Rock County voters should feel confident their courtrooms will remain free of partisanship or bias.


The six candidates have reputations in the community and are close enough to voters to be held personally responsible, candidate Tod Daniel told the Janesville Noon Lions. Voters should not fear the controversy and perceived partisanship many say is evident at the Wisconsin Supreme Court, he said.


"Regardless of who is going to prevail, I don't see anybody here running partisanly or running with that kind of a bias," he said.


The six candidates introduced themselves and answered a few questions from the audience, although each did not answer every question. Here is what they had to say in the order they introduced themselves.


-- Jack Hoag, 59, of 4155 Eastridge Drive, Janesville.


Current job: Attorney.


Hoag said he has vast courtroom experience. That's something a judge can't do without, he said.


"Quick decisions have to be made," Hoag said. "You have to keep an open mind. Without that experience, I think you're going to have some trouble."


Hoag said in addition to his experience arguing cases, he would make a good judge because he has good people skills and experience working with children and adults.


"I think I'm known for being diligent and hardworking," Hoag said.


-- Mike Haakenson, 49, of 2215 Purple Aster Lane, Janesville.


Current job: Guardian ad litem.


His role as court-appointed guardian ad litem has prepared him well for the job as judge, Haakenson said.


He said he would treat people in a courtroom the way he would want to be treated. When people met him, they would say, "He'll give me a decision that I understand, and he'll give me a reason he made that decision," Haakenson said.


-- Tom McDonald, 31, of 16 Marshall Place, Janesville.


Current job: Attorney.


After four years on the Janesville City Council, Tom McDonald said he understands what it means to be a public servant. He agrees that experience is "extremely important" for judges.


McDonald said his experience as a trial lawyer, as a member of the Janesville City Council and as an accountant for a large insurance company give him the professional experience necessary to be judge.


McDonald has done quasi-judicial work as a member of the council and council committees by gathering evidence and making decisions based on city ordinances, he said.


"We allow both sides to tell their story," he said.


-- Tod Daniel, 69, of 4446 N. Connor Road, Janesville.


Current job: Attorney.


Daniel said his experience in the courtroom as well as his education and reputation make him the best candidate for the job.


A judge must have integrity and independence, Daniel said. He has both, he said.


"Sometimes I'm probably a little too independent," Daniel said.


-- Barbara McCrory, 50, of 507 Apache Drive, Janesville.


Current job: Rock County family court commissioner.


McCrory said she runs her courtroom the way other candidates say they would if elected. The day when paperwork was due to declare candidacy, four of her five opponents argued cases in front of her, McCrory said.


McCrory has been the family court commissioner in Rock County since 1999.


-- Harry C. O'Leary, 49, of 2012 N. Granite Drive, Janesville.


Current job: Attorney.


O'Leary said one of the key things to a judge's success is the judge's disposition.


"I've seen many judges over 23 years and how they handle their matters," O'Leary said. "If I am elected, you'll see that I was prepared and I knew what the issues were."


O'Leary agreed with Daniel that, despite the political divide in Wisconsin, any of the candidates elected would be unbiased. Their reputations have been established depending on their fairness and open mindedness, he said.


"In the Rock County Bar, we have some camaraderie," O'Leary said. "I don't see that this would ever become a partisan situation."



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