ST. PAUL, Minn. (CN) — A U.S. House election in Minnesota will be delayed until February following the unexpected death of a third-party candidate, setting up a special election brought by a unique state law.
Adam Weeks, 38, died earlier this week, according to Legal Marijuana Now Party’s U.S. Senate candidate, Kevin O’Connor. Weeks was the party’s candidate for Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes much of the southern Twin Cities metro area and stretches southeastward. His cause of death remains unclear, but family, his partner and his obituary said he had passed away unexpectedly at his home in the southern Minnesota city of Red Wing.
Weeks’ partner, Gabby Ulan, told local news station KSTP that he had been found dead after family members requested a welfare check, and that an autopsy has been requested. A friend of Weeks told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that Weeks had struggled with addiction and that he had worried about his friend’s health after a ski accident last year.
A law passed in 2013 requires a special election in the event of the death of any candidate from a major party within the 79 days preceding the election. Legal Marijuana Now cleared the major-party bar in the 2018 elections when its candidate for state auditor, Michael Ford, received more than 5% of the vote.
Democratic Secretary of State Steve Simon gave his condolences to Weeks’ family and friends in a statement, adding that that statute would be followed.
“The loss of any of us is a tragedy, and that’s felt especially in someone who has put his energy into a campaign to serve in public office,” Simon said. “The law is clear on what happens next.”
The election will be held on Feb. 9, 2021. Incumbent Angie Craig, of the Democratic Farmer Labor Party, is expected to vacate the seat after her term ends on Jan. 3.
The law requiring a special election was passed in part as a response to the sudden 2002 death of U.S. Senator Paul Wellstone in a plane crash less than two weeks before an election.
Former Vice President Walter Mondale stepped in to replace Wellstone on the 2002 ballot, but GOP challenger Norm Coleman won the seat, which he held for one term until his 2008 defeat by Al Franken in a hotly contested recount. Simon, then a state representative from the Minneapolis suburb of Hopkins, sponsored that bill.
Legal Marijuana Now is one of two major third parties in Minnesota; the other, the Grassroots party, similarly focuses on marijuana legalization as its key issue. Weeks’ website lists the end of the war on drugs as his major platform plank, tying the issue to racial justice, fiscal responsibility and crime.
The party has until Nov. 10 to pick a new nominee, according to Simon. Onetime Senate candidate Dennis Schuller told the Star Tribune that party meetings will happen in the next couple of weeks.
Craig and GOP opponent Tyler Kistner both offered their condolences to Weeks’ family in statements and on Twitter, but neither has publicly discussed his death’s impact on the election.
The race for the Second District is considered competitive, though not a nail-biter. Polling showed Craig leading Kistner by seven percentage points in July, with Weeks picking up the support of 6% of voters.
The seat has been a major target for both parties in recent years: Craig’s 2018 defeat of GOP incumbent and freshman representative Jason Lewis, now a candidate for the U.S. Senate, ended a string of Republican victories stretching back to 2000. She is the sixth-ever Democrat to hold the seat, and had lost narrowly to Lewis in 2016.
Ballots have already been mailed out for the 2020 elections with the congressional race on them, Simon’s office said, and will not be changed in advance of the Nov. 3 general election. Any votes cast in that race will not be counted.