With the retirement of 58th District Court Judge Richard Kloote after more than thirty years on the bench, expect an interesting fight ahead to replace a legend in Ottawa County jurisprudence.
Rhem quit his job at the prestigous Grand Rapids law firm Varnum to campaign in 2010.
And campaign he did.
Rhem ran one of the hardest working campaigns in recent memory in Ottawa County, pulling no punches in his efforts to become a judge on Ottawa County's 20th Circuit Court. Executive Ottawa County Assistant District Attorney Kent Engle beat Rhem out however, taking in 40,352 votes to Rhem's 27,085.
Rhem finished second in the August primary to Engle, and easily beat the third person in the race, Grand Haven lawyer Chris Houghtaling. Engle had 49%, Rhem 39%, Houghtaling, 11%.
After winning in August, Rhem campaigned heavily in Georgetown Township and around Holland, utilizing his status as a Hope alum. He lives in Spring Lake, and has extensive ties with the Grand Haven/Spring Lake/Ferrysburg area.
The campaign was also refreshingly positive. Instead of negative attacks and cutting down his opponent, Rhem kept it mostly clean and positive-as did Engle. A couple of Rhem's surrogates took some cheap shots in the race's final days, but nothing too major.
After all the work he put in the 2010 race, Rhem is more familiar than ever with what tweaks need to be made in his campaign infrastructure to bring him over the top this time. Rhem will be a top tier candidate regardless if the race gets crowded, and could be the race's frontrunner depending on how the rest of the field develops. If someone from the Ottawa County Prosecutor's Office vies for Kloote's spot, that person and Rhem would likely advance from the August primary and duke it out until November.
Rhem now works at Grand Haven's Scholten Fant. That fact doesn't hurt him-many of Ottawa County's judges worked for the firm at one time.
Will someone from the Ottawa County Prosecutor's office contend for the seat? Will Chris Houghtaling run again? WMP will update you as we know more. Remeber, Rhem's not officially in, he may not run in 2012. However, WMP would bet (for bragging rights only of course) he runs again, and with an opportunity to replace a staple like Judge Kloote, Rhem just might not be able to resist.
A little bit about Rhem, via the Varnum press release when he announced his candidacy:
"Rhem was born in Holland, Michigan and grew up in Spring Lake, Michigan. He completed his undergraduate degree at Hope College and went to Washington D.C. for law school, returning to Michigan after graduation. Rhem has extensive community service in Ottawa County, including serving as president of the Spring Lake Rotary Club, and being a founding board member and president of the Lakeshore Ethnic Diversity Alliance (LEDA) from 1999-2003. He played an instrumental role in LEDA's planning and presentation of the Ottawa Area Summits on Racism held at Hope College.
Rhem currently serves as Vice President of the Ottawa County Bar Association, and is on the Board of Directors of Evergreen Village, a senior citizen housing community in Spring Lake. Rhem has also received many honors and awards during his time with Varnum. He was listed in Best Lawyers in America in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and was also rated in the Top Michigan Lawyers by the Detroit News"
Rhem's Facebook Page for his 2010 run: CLICK HERE
Rhem's LinkedIn: CLICK HERE
LINKS OF INTEREST
Engle Defeats Rhem in Circuit Court Race
Engle, Rhem Advance to November
Varnum Press Release on Rhem Candidacy