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GRAND RAPIDS PRESS — Attack ads' role debated in Allegan judge ouster

November 6, 2008

“Campaign for Michigan Families, a political action group, spent $1,500 on radio ads and $1,000 on robo-calls to voters, citing (Judge William) Baillargeon’s past as a board member of the (homosexual activist) Triangle Foundation and a 2004 donation he made to a group opposing Michigan’s Marriage Protection Amendment. …Gary Glenn, chairman of the PAC and president of the American Family Association of Michigan, said he thought the PAC’s advertisements and phone messages were fair. ‘Judge Baillargeon does not warrant any special exceptions, to not be held accountable for his personal actions,’ he said.”

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GRAND RAPIDS PRESS
Grand Rapids, Michigan
November 6, 2008

Attack ads’ role debated in Allegan judge ouster
by John Tunison

ALLEGAN — In the judicial world, ousting a sitting judge at the polls seldom is successful.

Attorney Kevin Cronin achieved the feat Tuesday, as supporters credited “key conservative support” in his razor-thin victory over Allegan County Circuit Judge William Baillargeon.

They do not deny, however, an attack campaign questioning Baillargeon’s past ties to a support group for gays and lesbians may have helped.

“I don’t know it had as much of a role as some say,” said Cronin’s campaign manager, Joshua Leatherman. “But it may have made some difference.”

Campaign for Michigan Families, a political action group, spent $1,500 on radio ads and $1,000 on robo-calls to voters, citing Baillargeon’s past as a board member of the Triangle Foundation and a 2004 donation he made to a group opposing Michigan’s Marriage Protection Amendment.

Cronin’s campaign is not affiliated with the PAC.

Close results

The election came down to the last two of 52 precincts in the county, with Cronin ultimately winning by 255 votes out of more than 43,000 cast in the race.

Candidates, with both receiving more than 21,000 votes, learned the outcome about 5 a.m. Wednesday after election workers solved a voting machine malfunction in Gun Plain Township, near Plainwell.

Baillargeon, appointed judge last year by Gov. Jennifer Granholm to fill a vacant seat, was aware of the PAC’s campaign against him, but chose not to respond with attacks of his own.

“I don’t think that is something that has a place in the judicial campaign, and I still don’t,” he said Wednesday.

A quality campaign

He said he was proud of his campaign, which focused on his qualifications and support from area judges, attorneys, the Allegan Bar Association and law enforcement, including Sheriff Blaine Koops.

“They put themselves on the line for me,” he said. “I have no regrets.”

Baillargeon, a former civil litigation attorney, said he was not sure what he will do when his term expires in January.

Cronin’s supporters believe a key endorsement from Right to Life of Michigan, as well as support from U.S. Rep. Peter Hoekstra and businessman Dick DeVos, made a difference in the election.

“You can never underestimate the Right to Life endorsement in Allegan County,” said Leatherman, who noted an aggressive door-to-door campaign, direct-mail advertising and last-minute robo calls to get out the vote.

Cronin could not be reached for comment.

Gary Glenn, chairman of the PAC and president of the American Family Association of Michigan, said he thought the PAC’s advertisements and phone messages were fair.

“Judge Baillargeon does not warrant any special exceptions to not be held accountable for his personal actions,” he said. “The entire race was as much a reflection of Jennifer Granholm’s disdain for the values of Allegan County as anything.”

http://www.mlive.com/news/grpress/index.ssf?/base/news-44/1225980944205920.xml&coll=6

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