MUSKEGON COUNTY, MI – Muskegon attorney Paula Baker Mathes held a strong lead against three other opponents in the race to be Muskegon County’s newest district court judge, as of around midnight on Election Day.
Although final results were delayed in the Aug. 4 election, unofficial results posted by the Muskegon County clerk’s office show Mathes with 10,175 votes as of 1 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 5 – nearly double that of her opponents. Two of Muskegon County’s 68 precincts were left to report their final votes as of 1 a.m.
Mathes faces attorneys Marc Curtis, Matthew Kacel and Jason D. Kolkema in the race for the open 60th District Court judge position. The top two candidates with the most votes in the primary will face off in the Nov. 3 general election.
Kolkema was in second place with 5,935 votes as of 1 a.m., while Kacel trailed closely behind with 5,795 votes and Curtis had 4,995.
The candidates are seeking to replace longtime 60th District Judge Harold F. Closz III, who is not seeking re-election after more than 17 years on the bench. The race is non-partisan.
Court terms are for six years. District court judges oversee civil suits $25,000 and under, adult criminal misdemeanor cases punishable by up to one year in jail, civil infractions and traffic violations, landlord/tenant disputes, small claims and land contract forfeitures.
They also handle felony arraignments and preliminary examinations to determine if there’s enough evidence for trial in circuit court.
Muskegon County District Judge Maria Ladas Hoopes’ seat on the bench also is open, and she is the only registered candidate for that position.
Mathes is an attorney/public defender and has spent 26 years as a practicing lawyer, including as a prosecuting attorney, defense attorney and private practitioner, according to background information submitted to the League of Women Voters.
She is active in community organizations and has a bachelor’s degree from Tulane University and a law degree from Thomas M. Cooley Law School.
Kolkema has been a general practice attorney for Kolkema Law PLC the last 6 ½ years and previously was a municipal defense attorney from 1999-2012 and a general practice attorney for David T. Bowen PC from 1996-99.
He is a 1989 graduate of Fruitport High School and has a bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University and a law degree from the University of Detroit-Mercy.
Kacel is an attorney and president of Kacel & Associates. He has a bachelor’s degree in public administration and public policy and a law degree from Michigan State University.
His qualifications and experience include being a small businessman/solo practitioner attorney for more than 10 years with appearances in 18 Michigan counties, including daily appearances in Muskegon County courtrooms, and the U.S. District Court for Western Michigan.
Kacel is a volunteer for Muskegon Catholic Central and St. Francis de Sales, a former clerk for former 55th District Judge Thomas Boyd in Ingham County, former clerk for the Michigan Tax Tribunal and former clerk at Legal Aid of South Central Michigan.
Curtis is a criminal and family law attorney and staff attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police. He has degrees from Michigan State University and Thomas M. Cooley Law School. His qualifications and experience include U.S. Army combat veteran, military police K-9 handler, former senior assistant prosecutor, law clerk for former state Attorney General Frank Kelly and private practice attorney for eight years.
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