Minnesota Republicans have challenged election results in court, introduced new voter ID legislation and even tried to impeach Secretary of State Steve Simon in the past year.

Yet with 13 months to go until Election Day 2022, the roster of GOP challengers assembled to try to unseat Simon, the Democratic incumbent, is virtually empty.

"We probably should have some good candidates [by now]," said Amy Koch, a political strategist and former GOP Senate majority leader. "Especially if you are going to be talking about election integrity."

Simon, now in his second term, has been one of the state's most prominent spokespeople on election security and voting rights — a stance that has led him to public showdowns with Republicans.

But GOP lawmakers critical of Simon appear more content to fight for their own seats next year rather than try to get the first Republican elected secretary of state in more than a decade. Just one person is so far seeking the GOP nomination for the office.

Simon declined to comment on potential challengers, but he said election security and countering disinformation about the legitimacy of Minnesota's elections will be key pillars of his campaign to keep his job next year.

"To me it is about defending democracy, strengthening the freedom to vote and countering disinformation," Simon said. "I think those are the three major things and that's what I'll be talking about regardless of who the candidates are, from what political parties, and who the nominees are. That's what I've been about. That's what I'll continue to be about."

Operatives say that dysfunction within the Minnesota Republican Party, which led to turnover atop the party apparatus this year, has recently kept the GOP from recruiting a deep bench of candidates for statewide offices.

"We just haven't had a functioning, recruiting GOP for a very long time," Koch said.

A state Republican Party spokesperson did not return multiple messages seeking comment. But other Republicans said they believe the party can field a compelling candidate to challenge Simon.

State Rep. Jim Nash, a Waconia Republican who works in cybersecurity and sits on the House elections committee, said election integrity will be a top GOP focus next year. He said he expects multiple Republicans to run against Simon — though he won't be among them and no sitting GOP lawmakers have yet emerged as likely candidates.

"I know it would be fantastic to have a new face in that office and I think Republicans recognize the effort is going to be an uphill battle," Nash said. "But there is enough interest and motivated activists that will help make it a lot easier."

Instead, Republicans are calculating that they have a better chance at advancing new election laws in their current roles should the GOP win back full control of the Legislature and governorship.

State Rep. Eric Lucero, R-Dayton, isn't running despite having drafted articles of impeachment against Simon this year over temporary changes to the state's elections policies that he alleged circumvented the Legislature. Last year, Lucero was a co-plaintiff in a lawsuit that challenged an extended deadline for counting mail-in ballots in the 2020 election.

"There are all indications that Republicans are going to have sweeping victories next November and I think that is absolutely influencing current Republican legislators from wanting to enter the race so they can maintain their current positions and recapture the majority," Lucero said.

Phillip Parrish is the only registered candidate so far seeking the GOP nomination to challenge Simon. A former U.S. Navy intelligence officer from Kenyon, Minn., Parrish unsuccessfully ran for the U.S. Senate in 2014 and governor in 2018.

Parrish's public Facebook page includes repeated claims of sweeping voter fraud and a prediction that "mass civil war will break out before 2022."

Parrish said in an interview he does not believe Joe Biden was legitimately elected president, even though his victory was certified by all 50 states and a joint session of Congress, scores of court challenges to the election were dismissed and officials with both federal law enforcement and the intelligence community concluded that no widespread fraud occurred last year.

Parrish launched a simultaneous bid to become the next Minnesota GOP Party chair. Had he won that vote, he would likely have dropped out of the secretary of state race. But he and three others lost to former Senate Minority Leader David Hann, who said last week that party leaders need "to bring people together and focus on the party's mission."

Parrish called the lack of opponents for the GOP nomination thus far "really quite frightening" and said interested candidates should have launched their campaigns by now. "If you're going to get serious about this, you needed to do it yesterday," he said.

The lack of buzz in Minnesota over the secretary of state race is in stark contrast to high-profile secretary of state races elsewhere in the country that have drawn elevated attention amid discord over the 2020 election — some of them even attracting endorsements from former President Donald Trump.

But Jennifer DeJournett, a Republican operative, still thinks strong candidates can emerge in Minnesota and could be well-positioned to win in 2022 by crafting a campaign above partisan politics. She believes Simon does not have enough name recognition statewide to be a shoo-in.

"I'd rather have a person who is serious, who's taken the time, that's not just using whatever the current hot topic is, that jumps in at the right time for them so that they are able to effectively campaign," DeJournett said of would-be GOP candidates.

Candidates for statewide office must formally file within a two-week period next May. But Kelly Fenton, a former GOP state representative from Woodbury, believes time is fast running out for candidates with any hopes of winning to begin publicly campaigning.

Fenton said she has been approached "by quite a few people" to consider running for secretary of state. She is leaning against doing it but said she hasn't closed that door because of "concerns that there have not been formidable candidates who have gotten into the race yet."

"Look, we're kind of approaching that deadline," Fenton said. "I think any candidate for statewide office should have already announced or getting close. If you can't make that decision by Nov. 1, then whoever gets in at a later date better have a lot of money or name ID."

Minnesota DFL Party Chair Ken Martin isn't ready to say it's too late to get a statewide campaign off the ground. But he noted the clock is ticking for Republicans if they want to defeat an incumbent who won his last two races by 8.7- and 13.6-point margins, respectively.

"Given all of the focus by Republicans nationwide on the election and the conspiracy theory they have about the 'big lie' [that the 2020 election was stolen], it is a surprise to me that they haven't been able to field any credible candidates at this point," Martin said.

Fenton called the short list of GOP candidates for statewide offices a key challenge for the next state party chair.

"The bottom line is, like it or not, Democrats do a far better job than Republicans in getting candidates to run for these various offices," she said. "I think that is something we can do better in Minnesota, is really take a good look at how we can build our bench for future candidates down the road."