Death of candidate in Minn. House race triggers special election next year

“I want to offer condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Weeks. The loss of any of us is a tragedy, and that’s felt especially in someone who has put his energy into a campaign to serve in public office,” Secretary of State Steve Simon (D) said in a statement. “The law is clear on what happens next. If a major party nominee dies within 79 days of Election Day; a special election will be held for that office on the second Tuesday of February.”

Craig, 48, whose term ends in January, now faces a Feb. 9 special election.

The congresswoman won the seat in 2018 after losing two years earlier in part because of a left-wing, third-party candidate. Kistner was running a serious race against Craig, but the Democrat was well-funded and the seat was not seen as a top Republican target.

The special election could be competitive. President Trump narrowly won the district south of the Twin Cities with 46 percent of the vote, edging out Hillary Clinton due to a high share of votes for third-party candidates.

Minnesota has experienced the death of a candidate in the middle of a campaign before. In 2002, Democratic Sen. Paul Wellstone was killed in a plane crash, and Democrats hurriedly nominated former vice president Walter Mondale to replace him.

That led to confusion about ballots already cast for Wellstone, which, to Democrats’ detriment, were not counted for Mondale. The state subsequently changed the law, requiring a new election if a “major party” candidate dies within 79 days of Election Day. The old problem — what to do with votes for a dead candidate — was gone because the parties no longer would replace that candidate on the ballot. It would be settled by a special election.

The election law, passed in 2013, may face legal scrutiny. The date of federal elections has been set at the first Tuesday of November for nearly 150 years, by Congress. If Minnesota’s law, never tested, were superseded, votes that started being cast last week might be tallied; if seated, the winner would serve for a month before a special election.

The Legal Marijuana Now Party, a 22-year-old left-wing party, was able to gain “major party” status based on 2018 results. Minnesota grants “major party” status to any party that gets more than 5 percent of the vote in the previous election, and in 2018, as Democrats swept Minnesota’s statewide races, 5.3 percent of voters opted for the Legal Marijuana Now Party’s candidate for state auditor.

That created a problem for Democrats this year, and the party filed a Federal Election Commission complaint against Weeks, whose social media posts suggested that he supported Republicans and who was not filing required paperwork about his finances.

Craig issued a statement this week about Weeks.

“I was deeply saddened to hear the tragic news of Adam Weeks’s passing earlier this week,” Craig said, adding that she and her spouse, Cheryl Greene, were “praying for the Weeks family during this difficult time.”

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