Minnesota Independence Party Ignoring Its U.S. Senate Candidate – But He Won’t Go Away

Independence Party Booth State Fair

Republicans aren’t the only major party with strife over who can appear at its Minnesota State Fair booth. As Republican-endorsed Supreme Court candidate Michelle MacDonald and her party battle over whether she can campaign at the GOP state fair booth, a few blocks away the Independence Party is facing a similar issue.

At the Independence Party’s state fair booth you won’t find a mention of Steve Carlson anywhere even though he will appear the party’s candidate on the general election ballot for U.S. Senate. You also won’t find him listed on the Independence Party’s website.

On August 12, Carlson won the Independence Party primary against four other candidates including the party’s endorsed candidate Kevin Terrell. Carlson’s margin of victory over Terrell was less than 800 votes. Turnout for the Independence Party primary was so low that Terrell had only a few hundred more votes than perennial candidate and fugitive from the law Jack Shepard.

It’s not unheard of for a non-endorsed candidate to win a Minnesota major party’s primary. One notable example is Mark Dayton who beat DFL-endorsed gubernatorial candidate Margaret Anderson Kelliher in the 2010 primary. However, the DFL then put its full resources behind Dayton and he went on to win the general election.

That’s not the situation in the Independence Party this year.

“Mr. Carlson has never asked for the party’s endorsement or support,” says Independence Party chair Mark Jenkins. “He has never even attended an Independence Party caucus, convention or event. After winning the primary, one of our CD (Congressional District) Chairs invited him to a county fair. Mr. Carlson declined the invitation and told our CD Chair that he was running a ‘stealth’ social media campaign. In essence, he has made it clear that he does not want our support.”

And should he show up to campaign at the party’s state fair booth, Jenkins says Carlson would be asked to leave.

Carlson at the state fair anyhow

Carlson has visited the state fair, evidenced by a rambling video he posted complaining that Senator Al Franken isn’t debating him. He stands in front of the Minnesota Public Radio booth and complains that MPR is interviewing Senator Amy Klobuchar instead of airing a debate, presumably with him included. This is the video posted on Carlson’s website.

Carlson has also visited the Independence Party booth. He was there at least long enough to pose for a picture to use in another video where he criticizes the party for its support of marriage equality and marijuana legalization.

(Photo of Carlson next to Independence Party state fair booth is :33 seconds into the video)

If Carlson should happen to come to the Independence Party booth to campaign, would there be a scene reminiscent of security escorting MacDonald out of the Republican booth while she and several others recorded the entire affair on video? Not likely. “We do not have hired security, so it would be up to the persuasive skills of the booth volunteers as to whether he would leave”, said Jenkins. “If I am there, and he refused to leave, I would join his conversations and make sure the party’s perspective is shared regarding the issue being discussed.”

Boot him from the ballot?
Independence Party leaders have talked “at length” about trying to have Carlson removed from the ballot says Jenkins. According to Jenkins, Carlson “stands in vocal opposition to many issues that the Independence Party strongly supports. Marriage equality, cannabis legalization and campaign finance reform are just a few of the IP stands that Mr. Carlson opposes.”

But there is no apparent way that the party can remove Carlson from the ballot. “State law regarding ‘Vacancy In Nomination’ only addresses how a political party can remedy a vacancy if the candidate withdraws for medical reasons”, says Jenkins. “There is no statute or rule, that I know of, that gives a political party the power to remove a duly elected candidate from the ballot.”

Michael McIntee

Michael McIntee is a former network TV news executive with more than 30 years of broadcasting experience. He began his broadcasting career at the University of Minnesota's student radio station. He is an expert producer, writer, video editor who has a fondness for new technology but denies that he is a geek. More about Michael McIntee »

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