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GOP Board: Party will continue to back Supreme Court candidate despite pending DWI case

Posted by: Abby Simons under Minnesota campaigns, Republicans Updated: June 20, 2014 - 5:52 PM

The Minnesota Republican Party's executive board told delegates Friday that the party will continue to back state Supreme Court Candidate Michelle MacDonald despite awaiting trial for alleged drunken driving and resisting arrest, but acknowledged that the process leading to her nomination should be examined.

“Regardless of anyone’s individual opinion on these issue, in a party which respects the rule of law and the constitution, we are not in a position to look backwards or change a decision which was made under the rules as they are,” according to the email signed by members of the state's executive committee. “However, delegates should have the same opportunity to evaluate candidates being nominated for judicial endorsement as is currently afforded for candidates seeking other statewide offices.”

The email came one week after the Star Tribune reported that MacDonald was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving and resisting arrest last year, and her case will head to trial this fall, during the general election. Downey said last week he was unaware of MacDonald’s 2013 arrest until notified by a reporter. The revelation came less than two weeks after party delegates in Rochester endorsed MacDonald to run against Associate Justice David Lillehaug, who is not endorsed and has opposed political party endorsement in judicial elections.

Although Downey said last week that the majority of delegates and party leadership were not aware of the arrest, the state’s 18-member Judicial Selections Committee was aware of the pending case against her. She said that when she told her side of the story, she received near-unanimous support from the committee, which brought her forth for endorsement.

The email explained  that because many judicial candidates don’t actively seek partisan endorsement, the nominating process for them is separate as defined in the state’s party constitution. While other statewide candidates must come before the Nominations Committee and meet a 2 percent delegate signature threshold before being able to come ot the convention, judicial candidates are nominated by the Judical Elections Committee and brought directly to the Convention for endorsement.

“Also, other state candidates typically campaign for months to secure your support, but in this case, with only four days between declaring her candidacy and our state convention, there was little time for Michelle MacDonald to introduce herself and for you to understand her background and judicial philosophy.” the e-mail read. It added that the party will work to improve its system “so that at a minimum the timeline of the judicial endorsement process is more in line with that of other offices.

Despite the backing, MacDonald did not appear among other endorsed candidate's on a party website.

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