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Clark unseats Blakely in judicial contest

In a rare defeat of an incumbent judge, Red Wing resident Larry Clark unseated Judge Timothy Blakely in the First Judicial District.

Clark, an assistant Dakota County attorney, said called the victory "an extreme honor."

"This is the highest honor I think an attorney can achieve," he said early today.

Late poll figures showed Clark leading Blakely 58 to 42 percent.

Clark said he hopes to be chambered in Goodhue County, where he would serve alongside First District Court Judges Thomas Bibus and Kevin Mark -- both of whom Clark said he has known for more than 25 years.

"I see myself working as a team with Judge Mark and Judge Bibus," he said. "I've known those guys a long time. We're comfortable with each other."

As to how he plans to lead his courtroom, Clark said he hopes people will be "feeling like they've been treated with dignity and respect and feeling like they received a fair hearing."

District court judges serve a six-year term with an annual salary of $129,124.

The First District comprises Goodhue, Dakota, Scott, Le Sueur, Carver, McLeod and Sibley counties.

The race gained wide attention after Blakely, who received a stiff sanction by the Minnesota Supreme Court, filed for re-election.

In August 2008, Blakely came under review by the State Board of Judicial Standards amid allegations he received a $63,500 discount on his divorce costs in exchange for funneling mediation business to his personal lawyer.

The board recommended the Minnesota Supreme Court remove Blakely from office.

The high court in September 2009 censured Blakely for six months without pay.

Clark commended Blakely for his service to the court, but said - as he did throughout his campaign - that he needed to be ousted.

"He made a very serious mistake and he didn't handle it well," Clark said.

Blakely did not respond to an e-mail seeking comment on the election.

Clark, a two-term member of the Red Wing Human Rights Commission, has served as a criminal prosecutor for the Dakota County Attorney's Office since 1989.

Blakely topped all candidates in the August primary, which dispatched Lakeville lawyer Stephen Baker from the race.

Clark trounced Blakely in two unscientific polls conducted among lawyers during the campaign. Respondents to plebiscites issued to Dakota County lawyers and members of the Minnesota State Bar Association overwhelmingly supported Clark.

Clark said the race proved to him that judicial candidates should not run for office the same way other elected officials do.

"The traditional partisan campaign doesn't fit this office," he said. "This is definitely not the way to go."

Clark said he hopes lawmakers can one day approve a more "appropriate" system for electing judges.

According to his profile on the Minnesota Judicial Branch's website, Blakely, a U.S. Navy veteran, was first elected to the bench in 1998 and was re-elected in 2004.

He previously worked as a trial attorney. During his term as a First District Court judge, Blakely has served as an adjunct professor at the University of Minnesota and William Mitchell law schools, teaching trial skills and judging law student trials, the courts site states.