2nd congressional district race delayed after sudden death of Legal Marijuana Now candidate

Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon has called a special election for Feb. 9, 2021

Legal Marijuana Now Candidate Adam Weeks had been running for office in Minnesota's 2nd Congressional District.

The sudden death of a congressional candidate in Minnesota’s 2nd District has forced a Feb. 9 special election, Minnesota’s top elections official announced on Thursday.

Adam Weeks, the Legal Marijuna Now candidate running to unseat U.S. Rep. Angie Craig, died this week, a party official told the Reformer. A cause of death was not immediately reported.

Under state law, the death of a candidate from a major political party will automatically trigger a special election, meaning Craig will have to vacate the seat in early January, just a month before the special election. 

“The loss of any of us is a tragedy, and that’s felt especially in someone who has put his energy into a campaign to serve in public office,” Secretary of State Steve Simon said in a statement. “The law is clear on what happens next. If a major party nominee dies within 79 days of Election Day; a special election will be held for that office on the second Tuesday of February.”

The battleground 2nd District includes east and south metro suburbs, as well as exurbs and farmland, and has been a political bellwether since 2016, when former GOP Rep. Jason Lewis narrowly defeated Craig, who then beat Lewis in a 2018 rematch. 

National Democratic and Republican groups have already invested heavily in the 2nd District. A February special election could see massive amounts of resources poured into the race, which will be either the first of a new president’s term, or the first of President Trump’s second term. 

Special elections are often unpredictable, low turnout affairs. Because a new Congress will be in session in January, Craig won’t be in office when district voters come out during the wintry special election. 

Dennis Schuller, Legal Marijuana Now Party treasurer, said the party was still processing the news and will consider its options in the race at its next regularly scheduled meeting on Oct. 4.

Simon said a special election would be held regardless if Legalize Marijuana Now puts up a candidate. The party  achieved major political party status in 2018 after its candidate for state auditor garnered more than 5% of the vote. Absentee ballots would be available as early as late December, he said in an interview. 

David Schultz, an election law expert and professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, said Minnesota law changed after the sudden death of former U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone, who died in 2002, less than two weeks before the election. 

“That’s the reason for the law here,” Schultz said. “We have so many absentee ballots already mailed out now, how do we handle that situation, where we now no longer have that person on the ballot?”

Weeks was a farmer in Goodhue County, according to his biography posted on his campaign website. In recent months, he has expressed his support for the Black Lives Matter movement, saying on his campaign platform that “you need to strongly consider that the drug war is the weapon that police use most often to harass minorities.”

Weeks was found dead by Red Wing police officers who were called at 7:08 p.m. Tuesday to conduct a welfare check, said Police Chief Roger Pohlman. They arrived at a home in the 1000 block of Bush Street in Red Wing, and found Weeks. His body was released to the Southern Minnesota Regional Medical Examiner’s Office, Pohlman said, who added that the case remains under investigation. 

In a statement, Craig, reacted to the news.

“I was deeply saddened to hear the tragic news of Adam Weeks’ passing earlier this week,” Craig said. “Cheryl and I are praying for the Weeks family during this difficult time.”

Tyler Kistner, the GOP-endorsed candidate seeking to unseat Craig, also expressed condolences in a statement.

“I am saddened to hear that Adam Weeks has passed away,” Kistner said. “Adam was a passionate advocate for the causes he believed in, and he will be missed by all those who knew him. We will be praying for Adam and his family and friends as they go through this difficult time.”

Ricardo Lopez
Ricardo Lopez is the senior political reporter for the Reformer. Ricardo is not new to Minnesota politics, previously reporting on the Dayton administration and statehouse for The Star Tribune from 2014 to 2017, and the Republican National Convention in 2016. Previously, he was a staff writer at The Los Angeles Times covering the California economy. He's a Las Vegas native who has adopted Minnesota as his home state. In his spare time, he likes to run, cook and volunteer with Save-a-Bull, a Minneapolis dog rescue group.