Embattled Minnesota Supreme Court candidate Michelle MacDonald on Wednesday filed a complaint against the state Republican Party that endorsed her, alleging that party leaders tried to force her from the race after learning of her pending drunken-driving trial.
The ongoing dispute between MacDonald and the party continued to escalate after her news conference announcing the complaint, with the GOP candidate for governor, Jeff Johnson, making it clear he no longer supported her campaign.
“As the leader of the Republican ticket, I tried hard to remain patient with Michelle MacDonald during these past few weeks.” Johnson said in a statement. “Her actions, however, show me that she is not interested in waging a serious campaign, and I can no longer support her. I’ll likely be writing someone in for Supreme Court justice.”
Senate Minority Leader David Hann, R-Eden Prairie, also lashed out in frustration at MacDonald following her news conference.
“To me, the real question, is why isn’t she running a campaign? This whole focus seems to be, ‘We’re going to be going after the people we don’t like or the people who disagree with us,’ ” he said.
Minnesota Republican Party spokeswoman Brittni Palke declined to comment Wednesday.
The 85-page complaint filed with the state Office of Administrative Hearings accuses the Minnesota Republican Party, its executive committee, Chairman Keith Downey, attorney Patrick Burns, Judicial Election Committee chairman Doug Seaton and former state auditor and former Republican National Committeewoman Pat Anderson of violating the Minnesota Fair Campaign Practices Act.
MacDonald alleges they conspired to deter her from continuing to run as a Republican for Supreme Court justice, despite her having received the party’s endorsement at its May convention.
The disclosure of MacDonald’s legal troubles drew ire from state GOP leadership who say they, along with most delegates outside the 18-member Judicial Election Committee, didn’t know about MacDonald’s arrest or controversial legal philosophy when they endorsed her to run against Justice David Lillehaug. However, they could not withdraw the endorsement without calling another convention but instead took action to bar her from campaigning at the Minnesota State Fair.
MacDonald’s complaint alleges that the four conspired to coerce her and also “disseminated materials that were false and reckless” about her that “concerned my personal and political character, and my actions.” She said she intends to request an expedited hearing on the complaint.
MacDonald’s complaint, backed up by pages of text messages and telephone call transcripts, alleges Burns approached her on multiple occasions from June, when news broke of MacDonald’s pending case, to Aug. 23, urging her to withdraw from the campaign or renounce the endorsement.
MacDonald said Burns approached her on behalf of the party asking her to do so — a claim Downey denies, while Burns said he was not representing the party. On the same day MacDonald refused to withdraw, Downey sent an e-mail to delegates defending the decision to ban her from the GOP’s State Fair booth. He also acknowledged that MacDonald remains their endorsed candidate.
Attorney Greg Wersal, who appeared with MacDonald on Wednesday, said the text messages constitute threats, with Downey’s e-mail the end result.
In the text messages, Burns’ tone changes from a concerned friend urging MacDonald to withdraw from the race to that of a negotiator.
“Here is a strong suggestion. If you give up the endorsement, nobody will attack you. No further news stories, videos, etc.,” he said in one.