Late in December 2014, CBS Minnesota reported widespread support for a June primary:
The debate over when voters get to cull election fields has been around Minnesota’s Capitol for years, but June primary advocates hope it has finally shifted in their favor. Their push has the backing of Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, incoming Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt and key state party officials. Opponents are fine-tuning arguments that a June election brings more pitfalls than benefits. . . .
State Democratic Party Chairman Ken Martin expects to join forces with GOP counterpart Keith Downey, who has advocated for a June primary in the past. Daudt, now the top House member, has previously been chief sponsor of the legislation.
The proposal’s fate rests with buy-in from rank-and-file legislators, many of whom take personal considerations into account. For one, the Legislature typically meets until late May, tying lawmakers down in St. Paul when potential primary challengers are freed up to campaign back in the district. There’s also the prospect of special sessions creating a backdrop where legislators on overtime face the real-time wrath of an annoyed electorate.
As we read the House bill, Minnesota's 2018 primary would be the first to be affected by the legislation (often bills that change the election calendar don't take effect until the next campaign cycle but not so here) and the 2018 primary would be held on Tuesday,June 19, 2018.
Curious about how that might affect the campaign calendar, we reached out to Secretary of State Steve Simon's communication office for a schedule. Communications director Ryan Furlong sent us this chart comparing the calendar according to current statute with the one for a June primary should the law be passed:
Schedule of Events in 2018
If the Primary is moved to the 1st Tuesday after the 3rd Monday in June
Current 2018 Proposed 2018
Party Caucuses date Feb 6 or party determined date Feb 6 or party determined date
Candidate Filing Period May 22 – June 5 March 27 – April 10
Absentee Period June 29 – Aug 13 May 4 – June 18
State Primary August 14 June 19
State Canvassing Board August 21 June 26
A few observations. First, unlike odd-years when our state lawmakers must get the party started on "on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January of each odd-numbered year. When the first Monday in January falls on January 1, it shall meet on the first Wednesday after the first Monday," there's no set date for the Minnesota Legislature to convene in even years.
According to staff at the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library (MLRL), the date to reconvene on even years is set late in the odd-year session. Following this tradition, no date has been set for the legislature to get it together in 2018.
To gain a sense of the range of even-year start dates, we were directed to a chart compiled by the MLRL, Sessions of the Minnesota State Legislature and the Minnesota Territorial Legislature, 1849-present, which reveals that since voters decided in 1972 that the legislature should meet each year in biennial sessions, the latest even year convening was on March 8, 2016. The restoration of the state capitol created logistical issues that made a late start appear reasonable.
Other March starts? March 6, 1984 and March 1, 2006. While there were a few late February convenings, the sessions mostly started between mid-January and mid-February since the 1972 amendment was passed.
Those lawmakers wishing to retain partisan endorsements will have to influence party activists by the caucus on February 6, 2018, since that's when the delegate selection and endorsement process begins. That partisan endorsement calendar will have to be truncated in order for the state parties to endorse a candidate before the filing deadline of April 10.
Without early endorsing conventions, lawmakers aspiring to higher offices will have to roll the dice as to endorsement and primaries. Take Prinsburg Republican Tim Miller, who may be exploring a bid for the Minnesota Seventh District congressional seat now held by Collin Peterson.
Dave Hughes, the 2016 Republican candidate who came relatively close to knocking the old Blue Dog off the house, is also running again. Hughes won the 2016 endorsement on April 30, 2016. Seventh District Republicans would have to hold their endorsing convention before the April 10, 2018, filing date for Miller to file for his state house seat again should the delegates give Hughes a second chance; candidates cannot file for two offices.
There's talk that the DFL might exhume and fluff up former state senator Lyle Koenen for the 17A seat; if it's an open seat, there's a chance that the salting of the earth against Koenen by the Freedom Club PAC might not deter voters from selecting the genial Clara City politician. Lots of House seniority there from the years when he served in the House prior to the late Gary Kubly's death.
It's not just Miller who will have to make the choice between a secure seat in the Minnesota House or constitutional office (and for some DFL constitutional officers, that position and the governor's office). On the Republican side, we're told in the media that Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Crown, representative Sarah Anderson, R-Plymouth, and representative Matt Dean, R-Dellwood, are potential contenders for the opening left by Mark Dayton's retirement.
On the DFL side of the aisle: start with the ambitions of Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, who lost the endorsement at the state convention in 2010 to former Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis. The legislature had adjourned, but the August primary allowed Thissen to file for his House seat and stay in the game. Former Range representative Tommy Rukavina and Roseville's senator John Marty did the same.
Unless the DFL and Republican state conventions occur before the April 10 deadline, one can foresee crowded primary ballots on June 19--potentially with the likes of Daudt, Anderson and Dean gone from the House Republican caucus in 2019, while Thissen, Rochester's Tina Leibling and St. Paul's Erin Murphy gone from the DFL caucus. For state auditor Rebecca Otto, a declared candidate, and attorney general Lori Swanson, long a rumored candidate, there'd be no turning back from whatever office they filed by April 10. Congressman Tim Walz, who declared himself as a gubernatorial candidate Monday, would also have no way of doubling back in the First.
Should the parties hold all endorsing conventions for state house districts, congressional districts and state constitutional offices by April 10, Bluestem thinks that furious calendar will leave a lot of exhausted activists. Since no one knows when the 2018 session begins, we hesitate to speculate about the stamina of the lawmakers themselves.
The DFL re-do
Curiously, the state Democrats are already in the process of resetting their 2018 state convention. On March 3, the DFL posted The Minnesota DFL Announces Location for 2018 State Convention, available now only as a google cache page:.
The Minnesota DFL is proud to announce the location for the 2018 State DFL Convention. From June 8-10, 2018, Minnesota DFLers will gather in Rochester, MN at the newly remodeled Mayo Civic Center to endorse candidates and conduct official party business.
“The Minnesota DFL has a rich history of investing in our state’s future, defending the civil and human rights of all citizens, and constantly working to move our state forward without leaving anyone behind. When the DFL convenes in Rochester in June of 2018, we will be making critical endorsements that will directly affect the lives of Minnesota’s families.
From June 8-10, 2018 DFL delegates will vote to endorse candidates for Secretary of State, State Auditor, Attorney General, the next Governor and Lt. Governor of Minnesota, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar.
“We are excited to bring our delegates together at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester to endorse candidates for statewide office. With the results of the 2016 election playing out in the state legislature, Minnesotans are seeing what happens when Republicans are in control. The outcome of the 2018 election is crucial to our state’s future and the DFLers who will gather in Rochester understand the responsibility to endorse great candidates that will continue to build a better Minnesota for all.”
Regardless of the month of the primary, it's probably wise of the DFL to take a mulligan on this one, since even without passage of HF729/SF514, Minnesota House Democrats considering running for constitutional offices would have to chose their office by the current June 5 filing date--just before heading to Rochester. DFL communications director Rachel Boyer confirmed that the party was re-scheduling the date of the convention.
Poor planning or an evil Martinian plot to favor one contender over another? We're not close enough to speculate on just what that was about.
Images: Crunch time (above); Screengrab of Lost 2018 DFL Convention (below).
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