On Tuesday, 25-year-old Carly Melin won the DFL primary in advance of a Feb. 15 special election for state House seat 5B in Minnesota’s Iron Range. Yesterday state Republican chair Tony Sutton claimed that Melin didn’t meet legislative residency requirements because she attended law school and took the state bar exam in the Twin Cities (it’s only offered there) and voted in St. Paul on Aug. 10. State law requires that a candidate live in their respective district for six months. The same approach was used in an unsuccessful attempt to unseat former White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel from the ballot in Chicago’s upcoming mayoral elections (Emanuel is a heavy favorite to replace Mayor Daley). It was also used against former Minnesota Rep. Tony Sertich in 2000. This special election is to fill the seat that Sertich vacated to head up the Iron Range Resources Board.
Melin says she moved back to Hibbing on Aug. 11 to take a job with the Minnesota judiciary, and currently lives with her family, thus making her a legal resident of Hibbing and eligible to run.
DFL attorney Jay Benanav offered the following statement in Melin’s defense:
“The residency requirement in Minnesota is clear: a candidate must live in their district for six months prior to the special election. Carly Melin meets that requirement. Carly graduated from law school in May, took the bar in St. Paul in July, accepted a job in Hibbing on August 9th and moved back to the district on August 11th. Those are the facts, and there is no question that she is legally able to run for office.”
State Chair Brian Melendez said these words:
“Carly has done what we want all Minnesotans to do — stay in Minnesota, receive a quality education, then return home to give back to her community. But rather than applauding her commitment to service, the Republican Party is throwing stones trying to gain the political upper hand instead of relying on the merits of their own candidate. It’s just another example of misplaced priorities of the Republican Party — launch false attacks instead of focusing on issues that matter.”
Here were Tony Sutton’s accusatory words yesterday:
“Is DFL candidate Carly Melin trying to pull a fast one on the voters of House District 5B? While Melin now claims she lives with her parents, state records show she may have a serious residency problem. According to state law, ‘Candidates for the legislature must meet legislative residency requirements when elected. This means that at the time of the general election, a candidate for the legislature must have resided in the state for one year and must have resided in the legislative district for six months.’ “Melin voted in the August 10 primary election as a St. Paul resident, which means Melin would have had just five days to move to House District 5B in time to meet the state’s residency requirement for legislative candidates. It’s time Melin came clean with the voters of House District 5B.”
Republican Party of Minnesota Deputy Chairman Michael Brodkorb added this:
“Everyone knows Melin doesn’t have the experience to lead. Now we find out her candidacy may not even be legal under state law. We need to get to the bottom of this situation.”