State DFL leader disavows local unit’s backing of candidate accused of stalking lawmaker

Published 5:47 pm Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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ST. PAUL — Minnesota Democrats have disavowed a local party chapter’s endorsement of a state House candidate who has a violent criminal history and is accused of stalking and harassing the Republican lawmaker he is challenging.

Judd Hoff was endorsed this month by Democrats in District 12 to run for a central Minnesota seat that has been represented by Republican Rep. Mary Franson of Alexandria since 2011. Republicans were quick Monday to demand that Democrats rescind their backing of Hoff.

“Democrats must withdraw their endorsement of this repeat criminal,” GOP Rep. Josh Heintzeman, of Nisswa, said in a statement. “For years he has harassed and stalked Rep. Franson by digging through her trash, publishing her address and contact information, filming her at her private residence, and relentlessly sending rude and threatening messages online.”

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Franson’s district is heavily Republican and is not considered competitive. She won reelection in 2022 with nearly 70% of the vote. She tweeted that she considered Hoff to be dangerous and asked, “Why is this the guy they want as a candidate?”

Ken Martin, chairman of Minnesota’s Democratic Party, said in statement later Monday that the party “strongly disavows this endorsement,” and he asked the local party unit to withdraw its endorsement immediately. He said the state party won’t spend any of its resources to support Hoff.

“We all have a responsibility, regardless of party or ideology, to reject violence in our politics — we can and should expect better from candidates for elected office,” the Democratic leader said.

Hoff’s criminal history includes a felony second-degree assault conviction for wielding a 23-inch machete during an argument in 2020. He was sentenced to 13 months and spent about eight months in jail. Court records show the judge gave him a break over the prosecution’s objections because the victim was the initial aggressor.

In a video posted to YouTube, first surfaced by former GOP operative Michael Brodkorb, Hoff admitted to digging through Franson’s garbage and acknowledged moving into a home across the street from Franson.

Hoff did not immediately respond to messages from The Associated Press seeking comment, nor did the leader of the local Democratic Party committee.