What a year, eh? The RiverTown newsroom looked back on 2020 to compile lists of the most important news and sports stories covered by the Star-Observer and Republican Eagle. Check back to Top 10 Stories of 2020 over the next few days to see what made the cut.
Due to the pandemic the 2020 elections faced new challenges, primarily absentee voting.
In Minnesota about 1.9 million people cast absentee ballots. In Wisconsin 1,957,514 mail ballots were returned and 651,422 people voted absentee in person.
The Pew Research Center reported in October that 50.3% of votes cast in the 2020 primaries were absentee or mail voted. This is up from 24.9% of absentee/mail ballots in the 2016 general election and 27.4% absentee/mail ballots in the 2018 general.
2nd Congressional District
One of the most controversial elections on the 2020 ballot was the 2nd Congressional District race between Tyler Kistner (Republican) and incumbent Angie Craig (Democrat). The debate began after the announcement of Adam Weeks’ death on September 21. Weeks ran in the race as the candidate from the Legal Marijuana Now Party.
A few days after Weeks’s death the 2nd Congressional District race was postponed to comply with a Minnesota law that states an election would be postponed if a major party nominee dies within 79 days of the election. The election was thus rescheduled for the second Tuesday of February 2021.
Craig filed a lawsuit on Monday, Sept. 28, arguing that the 2nd Congressional District race should be on the Tuesday, Nov. 3 general election ballot. The Republican Eagle reported that a U.S. District Court judge granted a preliminary injunction on Oct. 9.
Kistner appealed the ruling all the way to the Supreme Court. On Oct. 27, Justice Neil Gorsuch denied the request from Kistner.
Had Gorsuch ruled that the election would be postponed, the 2nd Congressional District race would still have appeared on the general election ballot because they had already been printed but any votes for candidates in that race would not have been counted.
Craig won the election by about two points.
After the election Kistner appealed to a federal appeals court to overturn the election’s result, arguing that the election should have been postponed until February due to the death of Weeks. MPR reported that the appeals judge stated that members of the district would suffer harm if the election was postponed because they would not have a representative in Congress between the last day of Craig’s first term (January 3) and the February special election.
After the election news outlets including the Star Tribune, CBS and Minnpost reported that Weeks left a voice message for a friend, telling them that the GOP recruited him to run in the 2nd Congressional District to pull possible votes from Craig. Neither campaign commented on this report.
County and city races
Local races did not include the drama seen in the 2nd Congressional District election. At the county level incumbents Linda Flanders and Paul Drotos both won their races by 9 and 44 points, respectively. The only new face that will appear on the County Board in January is that of Todd Greseth, who ran to represent District 3 after the district’s current commissioner, Barney Nesseth, announced that he would not seek reelection. Greseth will be sworn-in on Tuesday, Jan. 5.
The Red Wing City Council had three incumbents running for reelection: Evan Brown (Wards 3&4), Kim Beise (Ward 1) and John Becker (Ward 2). Brown received 58% of the votes in his race. Beise ran unopposed and received 99.11% of the votes in the race. Becker was the only incumbent to lose reelection. Andy Klitzke will be sworn-in to represent Ward 2 on Tuesday, Jan. 5.
Mike Wilson was elected as Red Wing’s next mayor. In the general election Wilson received 5,044 votes to incumbent mayor Sean Dowse’s 3,662 votes. Currently Dowse and Wilson are working together to prepare for the transition in January.
Dowse told the Republican Eagle, “I just wish him great luck working with citizens of Red Wing and the City Council, to do good things for all of us.”
Minnesota House and Senate
Incumbents Rep. Barb Haley and Sen. Mike Goggin will be returning to St. Paul for their third and second terms, respectively.
Haley joined the Republican caucus leadership team in December as the minority whip. Haley said in a statement, “it's an honor to have been elected to serve as House Republican whip. Our team is ready to step up to provide strong conservative leadership to Minnesota as we navigate what will be a challenging session."
Mike Goggin received attention for signing a letter to Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton. Fifteen Minnesota House and Senate members sent a letter on Dec. 10 that states, “(w)e are writing to you in support of your lawsuit regarding the 2020 elections, and request that you include Minnesota in the list of states against whom you are filing suit.”
The Texas Attorney General’s website states that Paxton “filed a lawsuit against Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin in the United States Supreme Court. The four states exploited the COVID-19 pandemic to justify ignoring federal and state election laws and unlawfully enacting last-minute changes, thus skewing the results of the 2020 General Election. The battleground states flooded their people with unlawful ballot applications and ballots while ignoring statutory requirements as to how they were received, evaluated and counted.”
The Supreme Court threw out the lawsuit on Dec. 12. The ruling stated, "Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another state conducts its elections.”