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Mother of disqualified candidate must run as a write-in

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Kay Ek, far right, has decided to run for an open House seat in the St. Cloud area after her daughter, Sue, on the left, was disqualified from the race Monday. But Kay Ek can only run as a write-in candidate. (MPR file photo)
One week before a special election in St. Cloud, the mother of a disqualified state House candidate says she'll run in her daughter's place. But Kay Ek will have to run as a write-in candidate. An attorney general's opinion says Ek cannot replace her daughter, Sue Ek, on the ballot.

St. Paul, Minn. — The Minnesota Supreme Court this week removed Republican House candidate Sue Ek from the ballot, ruling that Ek wasn't a resident of the district for the required six months before the election. With the election just a week away, Ek's mother Kay says she'll run in her daughter's place.

But the Attorney General's office says Ek's only option is to run as a write-in candidate. Chief Deputy Attorney General Kris Eiden says state election laws are clear about replacing candidates right before the election.

"They indicate that a person can be substituted on the ballot if there's a death, catastrophic illness, or if the original candidate withdraws. And any withdrawal under the statute would have had to have occurred within two days after the filing deadline, which didn't happen here," saus Eiden.

A similar question arose after the death of Minnesota Sen. Paul Wellstone just 11 days before the 2002 election. Wellstone's name was replaced by Democratic candidate Walter Mondale on the ballot.

Eiden says in that case, the replacement was allowed under the law, because the statute specifically cites the death of a candidate.

In light of the Attorney General's opinion, the Secretary of State's office sent a letter to election officials in Stearns, Benton and Sherburne counties to print ballots without a Republican candidate's name. That leaves only DFLer Larry Haws, a Stearns County commissioner, on the ballot.

Republican Party officials say they'll mount a write-in campaign to elect Kay Ek. Party Chairman Ron Carey says St. Cloud voters deserve a choice in the election.

"I think if nothing else, it may motivate some people," says Carey. "Because the turnout's going to be low no matter what, and there could be some people who have read this, and they're concerned that the choice is being taken out of their hands as to who their representative is going to be, and it may actually motivate some more people to come out and vote, and I hope that's the case."

Kay Ek says she's disappointed by the Attorney General's opinion, and says it will be more difficult to win as a write-in candidate.

Ek, 71, retired last year from her job as director of the Office of Natural Family Planning for the St. Cloud Catholic Diocese. She says she's running so that DFLer Larry Haws won't be uncontested in the race.

"I just feel that I have something to offer," says Kay Ek. "I've been involved in the Republican Party for a long time, I'm interested in all the issues that Sue was interested in, and since she wasn't able to be on the ballot, I just felt compelled to join the team."

Kay Ek says she'll do as much doorknocking as she can in the remaining days before the election.