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Judge says Minnesota US House election can proceed despite candidate's death

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A federal judge on Friday ruled that Minnesota's congressional election for the 2nd District could proceed despite the death of a third party candidate in September. 

The decision is a win for freshman Democratic Rep. Angie Craig, who filed a federal complaint on Sept. 28 to ensure the election would proceed after Secretary of State Steve Simon announced it would be delayed until February.

State law says an election must be postponed if a major party nominee dies 79 days ahead of Nov. 3.

"Given the overwhelming importance for Minnesota’s Second Congressional District voters to be able to vote in the November general election and to have uninterrupted representation in the United States Congress, the public interest weighs in favor of granting Plaintiffs’ motion for a preliminary injunction," U.S. District Judge Wilhelmina Wright wrote in her decision.

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The ruling notes Craig's argument that federal law takes precedent over state laws was likely to succeed, and Craig's campaign would have to retain campaign resources until February in the event of a delay. Wright added that a delay would leave constituents without representation for more than a month. 

The ruling ordered Simon to stop telling voters that the 2nd District's congressional election will be delayed. 

"Voters should continue to vote this race on their ballots, and pursuant to the district court ruling, those votes will be counted," Simon wrote in a Friday statement.

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Craig is running against Republican Tyler Kristner, a Marine Corps veteran who raised more than $1 million by July and beat Craig's second-quarter fundraising efforts. Kristner argued in favor of the delayed election and said he will appeal Wright's decision "to make sure that every Minnesotan has an opportunity to vote for the candidate of their choosing."

"As recently as this week, the United States Supreme Court and various Appeals Courts have ruled that state laws cannot be overturned on the eve of the election. Based on this precedent, my campaign will be appealing today's ruling to the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals," he wrote in a Friday tweet.

His attorneys filed a request Friday to keep Wright’s order from being enforced while he appeals, saying her order is "sure to disenfranchise thousands of voters" who believed there would be no congressional election on Nov. 3.

Adam Weeks, 37, was running under the Legal Marijuana Now Party until he died unexpectedly in September. The party, which won 5.3 percent of the vote in a 2018 state auditor race, nominated Paula Overby on Tuesday to represent the 2nd District.

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The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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