Benson lands county attorney nomination

Jennifer Benson is set become the next Webster County Attorney.

Benson defeated challenger Joseph McCarville for the Democratic nomination to the position in a vote by the Webster County Democratic convention Monday night at the Elderbridge Agency in Fort Dodge.

She will likely be unopposed on the November ballot. Webster County Republican Party Chair Jamie Johnson affirmed Monday that his party will not run a candidate because no interested candidates came forward.

The vote was necessary after Cori Kuhn Coleman’s June 7 announcement that she will withdraw her name from the November ballot.

The 18 Democratic delegates present Monday voted by writing their names and preference on a ballot. The ballots were then counted by two individuals.

The party declined to release a vote count. This is normal for Democratic conventions, said Party Chair Julie Geopfert.

“We never do,” she said. “They don’t do it a lot at state convention either. …They just give the top ones.”

The signatures must be kept for a number of years in case there is any question of unqualified voter voting in the convention, she said.

Only the 25 delegates who participated in the convention on March 8 were eligible to vote Monday.

Benson thanked the delegates for putting confidence in her.

“I look forward to continuing to serve the citizens of Webster County,” she said.

McCarville, an attorney with the public defender’s office, said he was disappointed, but he respected the vote.

“I’m always confident,” he said. “I try a case, and I expect to win. … But I understand.”

Each candidate gave a statement and answered questions from the delegates, while the other waited in the hall.

Benson has served as first assistant Webster County attorney since June 2013. She said her first law job was in the Webster County Courthouse, as a law clerk for the Second Judicial District of Iowa.

She won a write-in campaign for Humboldt County Attorney in 2006. She worked there for 4 1/2 years until then-Webster County Attorney Ricki Osborn offered Benson a job in Webster County.

“I wanted to work in a bigger and busier office,” she said. “I feel like this is a logical transition for me.”

In response to a question from delegate Mark Campbell, Benson said her relationship with Webster County Sheriff’s Detective Jason Bahr would not represent a conflict of interest.

“Mostly because we’re on the same side,” she said. “We have the same objective.

“I do make it a point to not be involved with cases Jason is directly investigating, just to avoid the appearance of something not being right.”

Benson and McCarville both said open communication was vital in running the office, and to keeping a good working relationship with law enforcement.

“I have found officers don’t care as much about what you do with the case as to why,” Benson said. “They want me to explain to them why we are doing things a certain way, what we can do in the future, and how it’s going to affect future cases with this defendant.”

Benson’s nomination was the party’s only action Monday night.

A Democatic challenge to Webster County District 1 Supervsior Keith Dencklau announced June 16 failed to materialize.

“He changed his mind,” said Geopfert of the potential candidate.