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Minnesota Republicans facing new claims they recruited legal weed candidates to run in swing races

Republicans have allegedly been encouraging people to run as legal marijuana candidates to take votes away from Democrats.

Scrutiny of the Republican Party in Minnesota was renewed on Tuesday when the Star Tribune reported that Legal Marijuana Now candidate whose death has sparked turmoil in the state's 2nd Congressional District had told a friend he'd been encouraged to run by the GOP in order to take votes from the Democrats.

The Star Tribune's article, which you can read here, says it had obtained a voice mail recording from Adam Weeks dating from May 20 – more than three months before his death – in which he told a friend he had been approached by "Republicans in the 2nd District" about running in the hopes he could "pull votes away" from Democratic incumbent Angie Craig.

In the same message, Weeks said he didn't have the funding to run a campaign, but said the Republicans "were offering $15,000" to apparently assist.

Weeks' death from an accidental overdose sparked upheaval in the CD-2 race, with state law dictating that the Nov. 3 election must be canceled and a special election held in February – which Republican candidate Tyler Kistner preferred – whereas Craig argued the Nov. 3 vote should go ahead.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled in Craig's favor and the election will go ahead as planned on Nov. 3.

This is just the latest claim alleging Republicans in Minnesota have been encouraging candidates to run marijuana legalization campaigns in an effort to siphon votes for the DFL – which has itself expressed a willingness to legalize weed in Minnesota. This follows two pro-legalization parties achieving major party status in the 2018 elections, which meant they lost control over who could run under their banner.

MinnPost reported in August that there are marijuana candidates in several swing races in Minnesota who have little to no record of being involved in the legalization movement and who have links to the Republican Party.

The Minnesota Reformer meanwhile reported earlier this year that one of the pro-legalization candidates running in the tight 7th Congressional District was encouraged to run by a "youngish GOP operative."

And in the wake of the report from the Star Tribune, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka came under renewed scrutiny after the Minnesota DFL shared a recent Politico article that reported he had met with a legal weed advocate named Sammy McCarty and asked him to run as a third-party candidate in a swing state Senate District.

What followed in response to the DFL sharing the Politico story on Twitter was a remarkable exchange between Gazelka and McCarty, in which the latter alleged Gazelka said he would be "rewarded" if he ran for the Senate.

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McCarty, who identifies as a Democrat and advocates for marijuana legalization, previously told Politico he believes he was being asked to run to take votes away from Greg Clausen, the DFL incumbent in the 57th Senate District who won the seat by less than 7% in 2016.

The GOP has a majority of just three seats in the Senate and the battle for its control is the most hotly contested aspect of the state races this November.

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Several leading DFLers, among them House Majority Leader Ryan Winkler, have expressed a desire to make Minnesota the latest state to legalize and regulate the production and sale of marijuana, and should the DFL win the House and Senate on Nov. 3, it's likely to happen, with Gov. Tim Walz having already said he would sign off on such a bill.

After his tweet regarding Gazelka – about which he said he's "willing to go under oath" – McCarty tweeted that the "only shot" at legalizing marijuana and expunging criminal records for pot offenses "is straight-ticket Democrat."

The Kistner campaign has declined to comment on the Star Tribune story. BMTN has also reached out to the Minnesota GOP and the 2nd District Republicans for comment.

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