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ND attorneys favor Greenwood as Southwest Judicial District candidate

A North Dakota state bar survey released Friday found that attorneys favor Southwest Judicial District candidate Dann Greenwood over his opponents, Stark County State's Attorney Tom Henning and Kevin McCabe, a Dickinson attorney, for a local judgeship position.

The three will be on the primary election ballot for the seat being vacated by Judge H. Patrick Weir.

The survey, conducted by the State Bar Association of North Dakota, was sent to nearly 2,000 of its members with 159 surveys returned, executive director Bill Neumann said.

"I would guess that in election context, these surveys have some impact, but I don't think they'll turn a really popular candidate into a loser or a really unpopular candidate into a winner," Neumann said. "People will vote for people that they know and trust or that friends of theirs have told them are folks that are trustworthy."

Neumann believes the candidates' campaign will have the biggest impact on the election.

"I think there's a correlation between being a successful campaigner and coming out with a good rating on a bar poll like this," he said.

According to the North Dakota Secretary of State website Friday, Henning has had three reportable campaign contributions totaling $12,500. Greenwood also has had three reportable campaign contributions totaling $2,500. McCabe had no reportable contributions.

Survey participants were asked to rate the qualifications of each candidate in several categories using a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest. Greenwood received more "excellent" or high ratings than McCabe and Henning.

The largest percentage of those who responded gave no opinion of McCabe and Henning in all categories, though Henning's ratings were higher than McCabe's.

"I think it clearly shows that I have a much broader experience level and much better reputation amongst the attorneys in the state, and especially the southwest district," Greenwood said. "It also shows that of the three candidates, I'm considered by my peers to be best suited for this position."

Henning was not surprised by the results.

"I'm not particularly disappointed with it, but I'm looking at it from a realistic standpoint of the nature of the kinds of law that I practice, being to a large degree criminal prosecution," he said. "I have been a prosecutor for 30 years and there are a number of attorneys who have dealt with me whose clients have gotten unfavorable results. To the extent that that could otherwise skew a poll that isn't particularly scientific -- I leave the electorate to reach their own conclusions."

The annual salary of each district judge will be $126,597 after June 30, according to state statute.

Greenwood said his involvement with the State Bar Association, including as past president, "certainly" affected the results.

"But there's a good in that," he said. "So many more people rated me in the excellent category than in any other category which I think, of course, speaks to my abilities."

Of the 159 who responded, 23 were from the Southwest Judicial District, which covers eight counties.

McCabe had not reviewed the survey results and was uncomfortable commenting Friday.