Minnesota GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen took a "lock him up" message on the campaign trail recently, suggesting that Secretary of State Steve Simon deserved imprisonment for his management of the state's election system.
Speaking April 23 at the Minnesota Third Congressional District Republican organizing convention in Plymouth, Jensen sparked loud cheers from the crowd when he warned that "the hammer's coming down" on Simon, a DFLer.
"We are not voter suppressors. We have a simple attitude: Make sure that every ballot in the box belongs there. Make sure that it's easy to vote, hard to cheat, and if you cheat, you're going to jail," Jensen said. "And Steve Simon, you maybe better check out to see if you look good in stripes, because you've gotten away with too much, too long under [Minnesota Attorney General Keith] Ellison, and the hammer's coming down."
The Star Tribune obtained audio of Jensen's remarks, which included his endorsement of a longtime Republican priority to pass new voter ID restrictions in Minnesota.
But the Chaska physician and former state Senator also appeared to single out Simon's involvement in a 2020 court-approved consent decree that relaxed the state's witness signature requirement for mail-in absentee voting amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Republicans accused Simon of circumventing the Legislature to change election laws. Ellison, also a Democrat, has also been targeted because his office typically represents Minnesota's statewide officeholders in legal matters.
Simon, in a statement to the Star Tribune, called Jensen's remarks "bizarre and irresponsible" and described the speech as "a cynical attempt to use extreme conspiracy theories to radicalize political supporters."
"The truth is that Minnesota's election system is fundamentally fair, accurate, honest, and secure. It's also non-partisan, and we need to keep it that way," Simon said. "The voters of Minnesota showed their confidence in our system by making us No. 1 in America in voter participation for the third time in a row."
Patti Meier, the outgoing chair of the Third District Republicans of Minnesota, declined to comment on Jensen's remarks, adding that she did not hear him advocate for Simon's jailing as she stood behind him when he spoke. "If somebody heard it, he must've said it," she said.
A spokesman for the Minnesota GOP Party also declined to comment, and Jensen could not be reached for comment.
The Third District GOP convention endorsed Tom Weiler for Congress but did not hold a straw poll or endorse a candidate in statewide office races during its convention.
Jensen did go on that day to narrowly edge past Kendall Qualls in the Sixth Congressional District's straw poll, winning by two votes. He also won a straw poll held by the Minnesota Log Cabin Republicans, taking 33% of the vote. Sen. Paul Gazelka finished with 25% and Sen. Michelle Benson earned 21% in that vote.