ST PAUL, Minn. — A candidate's death too close to the election has triggered a Minnesota law that will force a total reset of the Second Congressional District Race, pushing it from November 3 to February 9.
Minn. Secretary of State Steve Simon announced Thursday that Adam Weeks, the 2nd District candidate of the Legal Marijuana Now Party, had died. State law dictates that anytime a major party candidate dies within 79 days of an election it must be scrubbed and replaced with a special election.
"It doesn't matter whether you think the candidate has a shot to win or no shot to win," Secretary Simon told KARE. "If they're a major party candidate and there's a vacancy in the nomination it automatically triggers a special election."
Incumbent Democrat Angie Craig and Republican challenger Tyler Kistner, who have both advertised heavily in September, are the most likely rematch for the February election. According to Simon, people can still vote for them in November, but those votes won't be counted.
According to the Red Wing Police Dept., Weeks was found dead in his home in the 1000 Block of Bush Avenue Tuesday evening by two officers conducting a routine welfare check after receiving a call from family or acquaintances.
The Southern Minnesota Regional Medical Examiner's Office, housed at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, hasn't determined a cause of death yet. The 38-year-old organic farmer was a former Republican who switched parties before joining the race for congress.
According to his obituary, Weeks worked at Mad Jax Bar & Grill at Welch Village in Welch during the winters. He was born in Iowa but grew up in Northfield and graduated from Northfield High in 2000.
The Legal Marijuana Now party, by virtue of capturing at least five percent of the vote in the 2018 state auditor's election, is one of four major parties in Minnesota along with the Republican Party, Democrat Farmer Labor and the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party.
Gov. Walz isn't allowed to appoint a temporary member of Congress pending the special election, so the 2nd District -- which stretches from the southern Twin Cities suburbs into the southeastern part of the state -- will have no representative in Congress from Jan. 4 until mid-February.
"Even if the third party decides not to nominate a candidate to replace the one who has died, there still must be a special election under current law," Simon explained.
"The seat will be unfilled. The people who live in the second congressional district will have no member of Congress from early January until a few days after the February 9th special election."
In August, the DFL Party filed a complaint with the Federal Election Commission, alleging that Adam Weeks was actually a Republican running as a spoiler candidate to draw votes away from the Democrat Craig. Weeks, in phone conversations and email messages, asserted he was a legitimate cannabis reform candidate.
Neither of the remaining candidates would comment Thursday on the election being delayed until February. Rep. Craig posted the following message her official Twitter account:
"I was deeply saddened to hear the tragic news of Adam Weeks' passing earlier this week. Cheryl and I are praying for the Weeks family during this difficult time."
Craig's Republican challenger Tyler Kistner also sent his condolences via social media, writing:
"I am saddened to hear that Adam Weeks has passed away. Adam was a passionate advocate for the causes he believed in and will be missed by all those who knew him. We will be praying for Adam and his family and friends as they go through this difficult time."
Tim Davis, the Legal Marijuana Now Party state chair, told KARE he was shocked and saddened to hear Weeks had passed away.
"We are very sorry for about what has happened to Adam. Our condolences go out to his family and friends."
The current law was a reaction, in part, to the traumatic events of October 2002 when Senator Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash along with his wife, daughter, campaign aides and two pilots near Eveleth, MN.
"This law came about as a result of the Wellstone crash in 2002. Senator Wellstone, of course, died in a plane crash 11 days before the general election," Simon said.
"And the law in place at that time did not allow for any delay in the general election, and so Senator Wellstone's party, the DFL party, had to come up with a nominee with 11 days' notice."
Former Vice President Walter Mondale agreed to serve as the last-minute replacement for Wellstone, but lost to Republican Norm Coleman who had served a mayor of St. Paul.
"In later years, the Legislature determined a more fair way to do thing would be to reset in a special election weeks later."