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Minnesota candidate's sudden death forces February special election for competitive House seat

The death of a minor party candidate running a long-shot bid for a competitive U.S. House seat in Minnesota will force a February special election, thanks to a bizarre quirk in state law.

Adam Weeks, the Legal Marijuana Now Party’s candidate running against Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.), died suddenly earlier this week. No cause of death was given.

His passing comes just 40 days before an election, close enough that state law will require the election be delayed.

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The Minnesota state legislature passed a measure in 2013 that would delay a contest if a major party candidate dies within 79 days of Election Day.

The law came after the 2002 death of Sen. Paul Wellstone (D), who died in a plane crash that also killed his wife, his daughter and five others.

In the event of a death, the law requires a special election be held on the second Tuesday of February — in this case, Feb. 9, 2021, about a month after the new Congress is seated.

In a statement, Secretary of State Steve Simon (D) offered condolences to Weeks’s family — but he said the law is clear.

Major party status is conferred on parties whose candidate for statewide office receives at least 5 percent of the vote in a preceding general election. The Legal Marijuana Now Party won its status after their candidate for state auditor won 5.3 percent of the vote in 2018.

The delay will mean voters in Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District — based in the St. Paul suburbs — will be without a member of Congress when the chamber reconvenes in January.

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Craig, a first-term lawmaker swept to office in the midterm elections, won almost 53 percent of the vote in 2018. She faced Republican Tyler Kistner, a Marine Corps veteran who had raised just over $1 million through late July.

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Democrats in Minnesota and Washington were consulting with lawyers late Thursday as they sought to understand their legal options. National Republicans did not immediately return a request for comment.