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

Yet, at 13 months from Election Day 2022, the list of GOP challengers assembled to try to topple Simon, the Democratic incumbent, is virtually empty.

“We should probably have good candidates [by now]”Said Amy Koch, political strategist and former leader of the GOP Senate majority.” Especially if you are going to talk about electoral integrity. “

Simon, now in his second term, has been one of the state’s most prominent spokespersons on electoral security and voting rights – a position that has led him to public confrontations with Republicans.

But GOP lawmakers critical of Simon seem more content to fight for their own seats next year rather than trying to get the first Republican elected Secretary of State in over a decade. Only one person is so far seeking the GOP nomination for the office.

Simon declined to comment on potential challengers, but said election security and tackling misinformation about Minnesota’s election legitimacy will be key pillars of his campaign to keep his job next year.

“For me, it is about defending democracy, strengthening the freedom to vote and fighting disinformation,” said Simon. “I think those are the three main things and that’s what I’m going to talk about, regardless of the candidates, political parties and candidates. That’s what I did. This is what I’m going to do. continue to be about. “

Agents say the dysfunction within the Minnesota Republican Party, which led to turnover at the top of the party apparatus this year, recently prevented the GOP from recruiting a wide range of candidates for positions across the board. of State.

“We just haven’t had a working and recruiting GOP in a very long time,” Koch said.

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

State Representative Jim Nash, a Republican from Waconia who works in cybersecurity and sits on the House Elections Committee, said electoral integrity will be a top priority for the GOP next year. He said he expects several Republicans to run against Simon – although he is not among them and no sitting GOP lawmaker has yet emerged as a likely candidate.

“I know it would be great to have a new face in this 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 to make things a lot easier.”

Instead, Republicans calculate they have a better chance of pushing forward new election laws in their current roles if the GOP regains full control of the legislature and governorate.

State Representative Eric Lucero, R-Dayton, is failing to show up although he has drafted articles of impeachment against Simon this year for temporary changes to the state’s electoral policies which he says 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.

“Everything indicates that Republicans are going to have landslide victories next November and I think this absolutely influences current Republican lawmakers to want to enter the race so that they can maintain their current positions and reclaim the majority,” Lucero said.

Phillip Parrish is the only candidate listed so far for the GOP nomination to challenge Simon. A former US Navy intelligence officer from Kenyon, Minn., Parrish unsuccessfully ran for the US Senate in 2014 and Governor in 2018.

Parrish’s public Facebook page includes repeated allegations of widespread electoral fraud and a prediction that “a mass civil war will erupt before 2022”.

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

Parrish has launched a concurrent bid to become the next chairman of the Minnesota GOP Party. If he had won that vote, he likely would have dropped out of the race for secretary of state. But he and three others lost to former Senate Minority Leader David Hann, who said last week that party leaders should “bring the people together and focus on the party’s mission.”

Parrish called the lack of opponents to the GOP nomination so far “really scary enough” and said interested candidates should have started their campaign by now. “If you want to get serious about this, you had to do it yesterday,” he said.

The lack of buzz in Minnesota about the Secretary of State race contrasts sharply with the Secretary of State’s high-profile races elsewhere in the country that drew particular attention amid discord in the 2020 election – some of them even drew the approval of former President Donald. Asset.

But Jennifer DeJournett, a Republican agent, still believes strong candidates may emerge in Minnesota and could be well positioned to win in 2022 by campaigning above partisan politics. She thinks Simon doesn’t have enough name recognition statewide to be a shoo-in.

“I prefer to have a serious person, who has taken the time, who doesn’t just use the hot topic of the moment, who steps in at the right time for her so that she can campaign effectively,” DeJournett said of candidates. potentials to the GOP.

Applicants for a statewide position must formally apply within two weeks next May. But Kelly Fenton, a former GOP state representative from Woodbury, believes time is running out for candidates with hopes of winning to start campaigning publicly.

Fenton said she had been approached “by a number of people” to consider running for secretary of state. She is opposed to it but said she had not closed the door due to “concerns that there were not yet great candidates who have yet entered the race.”

“Look, we’re kind of approaching that deadline,” Fenton said. “I think any candidate for a statewide job should have advertised or approached by now. If you can’t make that decision by November 1, then whoever comes in at a later date would be better off. to have a lot of money or a piece of identification. “

Minnesota DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin isn’t about to say it’s too late to launch a statewide campaign. But he noted that time is running out for the Republicans if they are to defeat a starter who has won his last two races by margins of 8.7 and 13.6 points, respectively.

“Considering all the attention Republicans have nationwide on the election and the conspiracy theory they have on the ‘big lie’ [that the 2020 election was stolen], it’s a surprise to me that they haven’t been able to present credible candidates at this stage, ”said Martin.

Fenton called the GOP’s shortlist of candidates for statewide office a key challenge for the state’s next party chairman.

“At the end of the day, like it or not, Democrats do a much better job than Republicans in getting candidates running for these various positions,” she said. “I think it’s something we can do better in Minnesota, it’s really take a good look at how we can build our bench for future candidates on the road.”

Stephen Montemayor • 612-673-1755

Twitter: @smontemayor

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