Poll deems McDonald ‘unqualified’

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Monday, January 23, 2012
— Tom McDonald and Tod Daniel are not surprised they came in at the bottom of a Rock County attorneys survey about candidates for circuit court judge.

The Rock County Bar Association this weekend released the results of a membership poll conducted to gauge membership confidence in candidates for Rock County judge. Members are asked if they think a candidate is “qualified” or “unqualified,” said association President Tim Lindau. Members also can respond “no opinion.”

McDonald came in last among the six candidates running to replace retiring Judge James Welker. Daniel came in fifth.

Only seven of the 105 attorneys who took the survey said McDonald is qualified to be a judge. More attorneys than not said Daniel was qualified, but the results were close: 51 “qualified” votes compared to 40 “unqualified,” according to the survey data.

That kind of result is to be expected when a young person runs for office, said the 31-year-old McDonald.

“The members of what I will call ‘the old guard’ are reluctant to support such a campaign,” McDonald said. He heard similar criticism when he ran for Janesville City Council in 2008, he said. McDonald was re-elected to city council in 2010 but is not seeking a third term.

Daniel, who is not a member of the bar association, said the results are evidence of his independence.

“I don’t plan on being the lawyers’ judge,” Daniel said. “I plan on being the people’s judge.”

The association released the results to its membership this morning.

In first place with the greatest number of “qualified” votes was Court Commissioner Barb McCrory followed by attorneys Jack Hoag, Mike Haakenson and Harry C. O’Leary.

The poll is a subjective one, Lindau said. The group does not have definitions for “qualified” or “unqualified,” he said. Rather, lawyers use their personal judgment to vote, Lindau said.

Lindau thinks experience, competency and demeanor are the most common things lawyer consider when responding to the poll. Those are the characteristics he considers, he said.

But every attorney gives each of those characteristics—and possibly others—different weight, he said.

“It’s funny to talk to different people about it,” Lindau said. “Some feel very strongly about one thing. Someone else feels very strongly about another.”

Lindau was “blown away” by the poll’s response rate, he said. The association mailed the survey to the 166 people who had paid their 2012 dues in October, he said. They got 105 responses, he said.

Lindau did not have records of past polls. But according to Gazette records, it’s not unheard of for members of the association to describe a colleague as unqualified.

For example, in 2004 when Judge Alan Bates was elected from a pool of five candidates, the bar membership declared one candidate, Beloit attorney William Hayes, unqualified. That year, the candidates also were running to replace a retiring judge, John Lussow. McCrory was a candidate then, too. That year, only one attorney polled described Bates as “unqualified.”

More often than not, judges are appointed, rather than elected, to the job. Of the county’s seven judges, only two landed the job by general election rather than appointment. They are Bates and retiring Judge James Welker, whose seat is up for election.

Judges Ken Forbeck, Michael Fitzpatrick, James Daley, Richard Werner and Daniel Dillon were appointed and have been elected or re-elected to their seats.

The bar on Tuesday will host a candidate forum. The event is not open to the public, but it is open to the media. The Gazette plans to cover the forum for a story.

Last updated: 7:16 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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