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Judge rules 2nd district congressional race can be held in November

Minnesota state law said the election needed to be moved to a February special election after the death of one of the candidates.
Credit: Craig campaign, Kistner campaign
The candidates in Minnesota's 2nd congressional district: Democratic Rep. Angie Craig (left) and Republican challenger Tyler Kistner (right).

ST PAUL, Minn. — A federal judge has granted an injunction allowing the race for Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District to return to the November 3 general election. 

Democrats called Friday's ruling a victory, but Republicans plan to appeal.

The race had been moved to a February special election under state law, following the sudden death of Legal Marijuana Now candidate Adam Charles Weeks in September.

Democratic Rep. Angie Craig, the incumbent in the district, filed a federal lawsuit against the Minnesota Secretary of State, who is in charge of elections. In the suit, Craig argued that postponing the election to February would leave her constituents without a voice in Washington. With no election and no winner in November, no candidate would be able to fill the seat when members of Congress are sworn-in in January.

In a social media post, Rep. Craig called the ruling an "important victory for the people of the Second District."

The Minnesota Nominee Vacancy Statute, enacted in 2013, calls for postponing any race in which a "major political party" candidate dies within 79 days of a general election. Weeks' Legal Marijuana Now party is considered a major party in Minnesota.

In the ruling Friday, Judge Wilhelmina Wright questioned the language of the state law triggering the special election, noting it was created following the death of Sen. Paul Wellstone prior to the November 2002 election. In that case, the death of the incumbent also created a vacancy in the seat, as opposed to the death of an unelected nominee.

The judge's ruling also suggested that federal law would preempt the Minnesota statute in this case.

Republican challenger Tyler Kistner says he'll appeal the ruling to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals to keep the February special election, after the court added him as a defendant in the case.

"We hope the Attorney General will fulfill his obligation to defend state law," Kistner said in a statement. "Based on the previous statements from Secretary of State (Steve) Simon, numerous voters have reached out to our campaign and stated that they did not vote in the 2nd District race because they were told their vote would not be counted on November 3rd. Additionally, we canceled numerous TV and digital advertising buys, and refrained from sending out voter contact mailings."

The Secretary of State’s office has said that anyone who already voted for Weeks in the 2nd district race can change their ballots up to 14 days before the election. Any voter who already sent in an absentee ballot and left the 2nd congressional race blank can also request to get their ballot back so they can fill in their candidate.

RELATED: Candidate's death scrubs Minn. congressional race

RELATED: 2020 Voter Guide: What to know about Minnesota's elections

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