Taking a page out of former President Donald Trump's political playbook, Minnesota GOP candidate Scott Jensen recently called for the jailing of Secretary of State Steve Simon for his management of the state's election system.
Jensen, a frontrunner for the GOP nomination for governor, said on April 23 during the GOP's 3rd Congressional District Convention at Wayzata High School that "the hammer is coming down" on Simon.
"We are not voter suppressors. We have a simple attitude. Make sure every ballot in the box belongs there. Make sure it’s easy to vote, hard to cheat, and if you cheat, you’re going to jail," Jensen said in an audio recording obtained initially by the Star Tribune and subsequently by the Minnesota DFL.
"And Steve Simon, you maybe better check out to see if you look good in stripes, because you’ve gotten away with too much, too long, under [Minnesota Attorney General Keith] Ellison, and the hammer’s coming down.”
Five Minnesota Republican gubernatorial candidates, including Jensen, continued to amplify "The Big Lie" about voter fraud in the 2020 election by refusing to accept President Joe Biden was the legitimate winner at a debate in December.
Despite repeated allegations by many Republicans in the wake of Trump's loss, numerous investigations and reviews – conducted by officials on both sides of the aisle as well as independents – have found no basis for claims of widespread election fraud in 2020.
In a tweet, Simon described Jensen's comments as "Bizarre. Irresponsible. A cynical attempt to use extreme conspiracy theories to radicalize political supporters."
Rep. Dean Phillips, representing Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District, took to Twitter on Sunday to call out Jensen's "unpatriotic vitriol."
Under Simon's leadership, Minnesota has led with the highest voter turnout in the United States three elections in a row, according to the United States Census Bureau.
But he has been criticized by Republicans after he agreed settlements with two groups who sued over the state's witness requirement for mail-in ballots, with the groups contending this could put vulnerable people at risk from COVID-19.
The deal, which was backed by a court, nixed the requirement that a registered voter must act as a witness to signatures on mail-in ballots.
Per MinnPost, absentee voters still had to sign their ballot envelopes, and include the identifying number they used to apply for the mail-in ballot, like their SSN or driver's license number. When absentee ballots are received, the details are checked by at least two members of an absentee ballot board to ensure the details match the voter's registration information, and to make sure they haven't already voted.
Republicans at the time argued that such a change should have gone through the Legislature rather than being approved by the courts.
This isn't the first time Jensen has provided controversy with his statements. He has been accused on several occasions of spreading COVID-19 misinformation, and just last month contended that COVID death data is skewed by people who would have died a few years later anyway, as reported by the Minnesota Reformer.
He has recently shown support for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for retaliating against Disney after the company criticized the state's new "Don't Say Gay" law. He also has faced some backlash from his own party for favorably mentioning he had received support from Russian President Vladmir Putin and his Kremlin-backed propaganda outlets (this was prior to Russia's invasion of Ukraine).
Jensen is among the frontrunners for the GOP nomination, scoring highly in recent district straw polls, and it's looking increasingly likely that the race will be between him and Kendall Qualls, though former Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka is still in the race.
Bring Me The News has reached out for comment from both the Secretary of State and Jensen's campaign on the matter and have yet to hear back as of Monday afternoon.