More than a half dozen contested judicial races will come before voters in November

Attorney Nathan Hansen is challenging Walz appointee Helen Brosnahan.

Attorney Nathan Hansen, 47, of Mahtomedi, filed Friday to run for a 10th Judicial District seat currently occupied by Gov. Tim Walz appointee Helen Brosnahan. (Nathan Hansen/Twitter)

Nathan Hansen has tried over 100 cases in his more than 20 years as an attorney. The Mahtomedi resident and father of four believes the time is right for his transition to the bench.

On Friday, Hansen, 47, filed his affidavit of candidacy for a seat in the 10th Judicial District that covers eight counties. He will challenge sitting Judge Helen Brosnahan, who was appointed by Gov. Tim Walz in 2022 after longtime Judge Tad Jude announced his retirement and intent to run for attorney general.

“It’s important to have a strong judiciary that applies the rule of law even-handedly,” Hansen said when contacted by Alpha News on Tuesday. “This seat has traditionally been known as the ‘people’s seat,’ having been filled by election over the last several decades.”

Judge Helen Brosnahan/Minnesota Judicial Branch

The race is one of six district court seats across Minnesota that will be contested this November, out of 93 total seats up for election. For comparison, in 2022, just one of 105 district judicial races on the general election ballot featured two candidates. The filing deadline for judicial and legislative elections was June 4.

“Center of the American Experiment has made a concerted effort over the past two years to make data available on judicial performance in Minnesota, specifically to encourage potential candidates to oppose sitting judges who are failing to hold criminal offenders accountable,” David Zimmer, a public safety policy fellow with the Center of the American Experiment, told Alpha News. “It is encouraging to see the number of judicial candidates grow in 2024. Such a trend represents a healthy challenge to the status quo in our troubled criminal justice system.”

Hansen’s career experience involves litigation ranging from family law and bankruptcy to criminal and general civil litigation. He’s tried cases at the district and appellate level in both state and federal court, including as local representation in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in the 2020 Carson v. Simon case against DFL Secretary of State Steve Simon. Hansen represented appellants who were successful in defeating Simon’s consent decree that attempted to change election laws without the approval of the legislature.

Brosnahan’s career prior to her appointment included stints as an assistant prosecutor in Olmsted and Dakota counties, where in the latter she also served on the Dakota County Attorney’s Office’s Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity Alliance. This is the second time Brosnahan will be on the ballot for a 10th District seat. In 2010 she was one of 25 candidates who sought an open seat. Tad Jude won that race with 15 percent of the vote. Brosnahan placed 17th among the field with just more than 2 percent of the vote.

Just one judicial seat of 105 was contested in 2022

While Minnesota has historically featured very few contested district judge races (partly due to the fact that voters have to flip over their ballots to vote for those seats), the 10th Judicial District is thought to be a competitive area for challengers and covers eight counties that have collectively leaned Republican in recent election cycles.

Hansen, who once ran for the Minnesota House of Representatives as a GOP-endorsed candidate, said he will seek recommended status or endorsement from the Republican Party of Minnesota.

The judicial election landscape this fall will also feature at least two seats on the Minnesota Supreme Court and one contested Minnesota Court of Appeals race.

South metro attorney Matt Hanson is challenging Associate Justice Karl Procaccini, who was appointed to the Supreme Court last fall by Gov. Walz after serving as Walz’s deputy chief of staff and general counsel.

Matt Hanson, right, will challenge Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Karl Procaccini this fall. (Minnesota Judicial Branch/M. Hanson Law)

Procaccini’s campaign staff told Alpha News following publication of a story on the race last weekend that he “has the experience necessary to handle the complex and important legal issues faced by the Minnesota Supreme Court.” Prior to his tenure with the Walz administration, Procaccini worked as an attorney and then partner for Minneapolis-based Greene Espel PLLP from 2012 to 2018.

Stephen A. Emery is challenging Chief Justice Natalie Hudson. In 2022, Emory won a race for Yellow Medicine County Attorney, but announced he would not take the job days before he was to assume office. A third seat on the state’s highest court is up for election this November. Incumbent Associate Justice Anne McKieg does not have a challenger.

Five vie for open judicial seat in northeast Minnesota

Just one of seven Court of Appeals seats up for election will feature two candidates.

Chaska-based attorney Jonathan R. Woolsey is challenging incumbent Diane Bratvold in a race for the Minnesota Court of Appeals. Bratvold was first appointed to the court in 2016 by then Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. She won a six-year term on the court in 2018 after no one challenged her. Both Woolsey and Bratvold listed campaign websites in their affidavit of candidacy that were not yet “live” as of Tuesday.

In addition to the Hansen v. Brosnahan 10th District race, five candidates — Peter Raukar, Shawn Reed, John Schulte, Gunnar Johnson and Gerald Wallace — have filed for an open seat in the 6th Judicial District, which covers four counties in northeast Minnesota.

In the 4th Judicial District, attorney Christopher Leckrone will challenge Walz appointee Matthew Frank. Attorney Joel Novak will vie to unseat incumbent Judge Timothy Churchwell in a 7th Judicial District race. Attorney Winona Yang filed on Tuesday to challenge incumbent Judge DeAnne Hilgers in the 2nd Judicial District. And in another 2nd Judicial District race, attorney Paul Yang will challenge Walz appointee Timothy Carey.


Hank Long

Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.