Minnesota congresswoman sues to decide race in November

Published 6:50 am Wednesday, September 30, 2020

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MINNEAPOLIS — Democratic U.S. Rep. Angie Craig is seeking a court order requiring that the November election in her congressional race be held as scheduled instead of being delayed until February under a Minnesota law that was triggered when a third-party candidate died.

Craig, who is seeking a second term in a competitive suburban and rural district south of the Twin Cities, said in a statement Monday that federal law requires the contest to be held as part of the November general election. And she warned that the district would go without congressional representation for several weeks if the election is delayed.

“The people of Minnesota’s Second Congressional District deserve to have a voice fighting for them in Washington,” she said. “Unfortunately, the process currently in place would deprive Minnesotans of their seat at the table at a time when critical legislation affecting our state will be debated — including bills to rid politics of special interests, ensure quality, affordable health care for every Minnesotan and safeguard our family farmers.”

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Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon  postponed the 2nd District election after Adam Weeks, the Legal Marijuana Now Party candidate for the seat, died Sept. 21.

Legal Marijuana Now has major party status in Minnesota under a law that lets a small party qualify if one of its candidates for statewide office got at least 5% of the vote in a recent election. Simon said state law requires that if a major party nominee dies within 79 days of Election Day, a special election must be held for that office on the second Tuesday in February, which is Feb. 9, 2021.

If the state law is enforced, Craig would have to vacate the seat when her term expires Jan. 3 and it would remain vacant until the winner of the special election was declared in early February, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reported.

Craig argued in her federal lawsuit filed Monday that the state law is “unconstitutional as applied to elections for U.S. Congress and is preempted by federal law.”

Craig is facing a challenge from Republican Tyler Kistner, a Marine Corps veteran making his first run for office. She has urged her supporters to mark their ballots for her and other Democrats, even though the votes for her seat may not be counted if the state law stands. Craig would be expected to benefit from the high turnout on Election Day, while Kistner’s chances would be expected to improve in a special election, in which Republicans tend to benefit from the lower turnout.

Minnesota began early voting on Sept. 18. Notices are required to be placed at polling places about the postponement. Craig has asked for an injunction to remove any postponement notices and to compel officials to certify the November results.

The Legislature changed state election law to avoid a repeat of the hectic 2002 race, when Sen. Paul Wellstone was killed in a plane crash 11 days before the election. Democrats chose former Vice President Walter Mondale to replace Wellstone on the ballot, but he lost the seat to Republican Norm Coleman.

Kistner spokesman Billy Grant criticized Craig for suing, saying the change passed with bipartisan support.

“Despite Secretary of State Simon being crystal clear that there will be a special election in February, Angie Craig is trying to rewrite laws to disenfranchise voters,” he said.