Minnesota DFL lawmakers are studying legislation to open access to presidential primary ballots after the Minnesota Republican Party excluded rivals to President Donald Trump from the state’s March GOP primary.
Trump was the only candidate submitted to the Minnesota Secretary of State by Republican Party chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan last month even though there are at least three other Republican candidates running active campaigns for the Republican nomination. Coming under criticism from Democrats as well as some Republicans, Carnahan has since said the party will allow write-in candidates.
On Monday, state Reps. Jamie Long and Raymond Dehn — both Democrats from Minneapolis — said they will introduce legislation in February that would allow candidates to be listed in presidential primaries if they file an affidavit and pay a fee, reverting to the process the state used until it switched to a caucus system after the 1992 presidential primaries.
“This is the way Minnesota used to do it, and it works well for our Senate and governor races,” Long said. “Minnesotans are proud to vote in the highest numbers in the country and we deserve respect, not sham primaries.”
Minnesota GOP officials called the DFL effort unwarranted.
“It is unfortunate that Democrat elected officials are attempting to impede the will of the Republican Party of Minnesota by introducing retroactive legislation affecting the Presidential Preference Primary here in Minnesota,” Carnahan said in a statement. “If the state Legislature wanted to change the Presidential Primary process, they were required to act long ago.”
With less than a month separating the Feb. 11 start of the next legislative session and the March 3 Super Tuesday primary in Minnesota, Long and Dehn are holding on to hope that their proposal can advance in time to have an effect on the 2020 presidential primary.
“Minnesota’s voters, regardless of political affiliation, should not have their choices limited by a small group of party leaders,” said Dehn, who also chairs a House subcommittee on elections.
Carnahan noted that Dehn was among those who voted for the 2016 state law that re-established the primary process for the 2020 election and spelled out the process for party chairs to submit lists of candidates to appear on the ballot.
She informed the secretary of state of her party’s decision to exclusively put Trump’s name on the ballot more than two months before the Dec. 31 filing deadline.
Former Massachusetts Gov. William Weld, former South Carolina Gov. Mark Sanford and former U.S. Rep. Joe Walsh of Illinois are each also running active, if long shot, campaigns for the Republican nomination.
But Carnahan said that none of those GOP candidates are running national campaigns, noting that they have missed ballot access deadlines in other states and have not campaigned in Minnesota.
In unveiling their plans for the new legislation, Dehn and Long on Monday cited a recent study by the Kaiser Family Foundation and Cook Political Report that found just 58% of Minnesota Republicans say that they would “definitely” vote for Trump in 2020.