Early voting has already begun in Minnesota, and for the second election cycle in a row, a deceased candidate will appear on the ballot in a key U.S. House race.
Paula Overby, the Legal Marijuana Now Party candidate in the heated race for Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District, died on Oct. 5 due to heart complications, according to her son. An official cause of death has not yet been determined.
Because her death occured after early voting had started across the state of Minnesota, Overby’s name will still appear on the ballot in the suburban Twin Cities District.
“In the absence of any other court order, the November 8, 2022 ballots will remain as printed, and the Congressional District 2 election will proceed as scheduled on November 8, 2022,” the Minnesota Secretary of State’s Office confirmed in a statement.
Overby’s death could have substantial implications on the race between incumbent Democratic Rep. Angie Craig and Republican Tyler Kistner. Both candidates expressed their condolences to Overby’s family on Twitter following the announcement of her passing.
“This is a very sad day for Minnesota’s Second District. Paula Overby cared deeply about our state, and the principles she believed in,” Kistner said in a statement. “Minnesota is better for her involvement in our community and she will be missed,” said Craig.
Past Chaos in MN-02
Although unlikely to win in November, Overby’s posthumous performance could play an influential role in determining the outcome of the race. She received 8% of the vote as an Independence Party candidate in 2016, where then-incumbent Republican Rep. Jason Lewis defeated then-Democratic nominee Angie Craig by a margin of less than 2%. Several Democratic strategists blamed Overby for Craig’s loss in the aftermath of the election.
“It’s a false narrative. It’s a story they created to frighten people away from third parties,” Overby told the Minnesota Reformer in response to the accusations.
Craig ran against Lewis again in 2018 and won, receiving 53% of the vote to Lewis’ 47%. She was then re-elected in 2020 against Kistner, 48% to 46%. In an odd coincidence, the Legal Marijuana Now candidate in that race, Adam Charles Weeks, also died weeks before the election. Still, Weeks managed to receive 6% of the vote.
State of the 2022 Race
As of Oct. 11, three well-respected election race newsletters – The Cook Political Report, Inside Elections, and Sabato’s Crystal Ball – rated the 2022 contest in Minnesota’s 2nd District as a Toss-up. Decision Desk HQ currently rates MN-02 as ‘Lean Democrat’, and gives Craig a 76% chance of winning in November.
A poll conducted in mid-July by RMG Research, Inc showed Craig with a narrow one point advantage over Kistner among 400 likely voters. According to campaign finance reports, Craig had $4.7 million cash on hand through the end of July compared to Kistner’s $523 thousand.
Minnesota’s congressional districts didn’t change much during redistricting following the 2020 Census. The state’s new court-drawn map is nearly identical in competitiveness to the old map, with four Republican-leaning seats, three Democratic-leaning seats and one highly competitive seat- the 2nd District.
“The suburban Twin Cities seat didn’t change much in redistricting; just 8 percent of the 2nd District is new to both candidates,” wrote Nathan L. Gonzales of Inside Elections in Roll Call in April 2022.
According to Daily Kos Elections, if the 2020 presidential election had been held under the newly drawn lines, Joe Biden would have received 52.5% of the vote compared to Donald Trump’s 45.4%. Trump, however, won the district four years prior, receiving 47% of the vote to Hillary Clinton’s 45%.
“Two counties make up most of MN-02: blue-leaning Dakota County, and red-leaning Carver County. Craig will probably need to win Dakota County by at least 5 points,” noted Decision Desk HQ’s Zachary Donnini.
MN-02 is one of 36 congressional districts currently rated as ‘leaning’ toward Democrats or Republicans, according to Decision Desk HQ’s 2022 Elections Forecast. 15 additional races are rated as ‘Toss up’, as of Oct. 14. With Democrats currently holding a 220-212 seat majority in the U.S. House of Representatives, Republicans need only gain a net of five districts to win a majority in the 118th Congress.
Who are the Candidates?
Before serving in the U.S. House, Angie Craig worked as a journalist and held various executive roles in the medical device industry. She is the first openly gay member of Congress from Minnesota, and the first lesbian mother ever to serve in Congress.
Tyler Kistner, who served as an officer in the U.S. Marine Corps, is looking to unseat Craig in a rematch of the 2020 election, where he lost by under 10,000 votes.