Minnesota Republicans endorsed secretary of state candidate Kim Crockett, an attorney who has cast doubt on the integrity of the country's elections, as they kicked off their state convention Friday.
"We need to return to the civic traditions that unite us, like voting in-person," Crockett said Friday. "We must root out years of hyper-partisan election processes."
The race to take over the office in charge of managing how elections are run in Minnesota has highlighted enduring disputes over election security and voter confidence in the state and nationwide since the 2020 vote.
Crockett has been mounting a far-right bid to oust DFL Secretary of State Steve Simon. She works as a legal policy adviser to the Minnesota Voters Alliance, which has filed multiple lawsuits against Simon over the state's election administration.
She was suspended from a think tank in 2019 for comments made about Somali-Americans for a New York Times article. Her comments — which included the remarks "these aren't people coming from Norway" — were widely seen as Islamophobic.
Kelly Jahner-Byrne of Woodbury was also seeking the Republican nomination after an unsuccessful run for the Minnesota House in 2020. Jahner-Byrne is an entrepreneur and philanthropist.
Jahner-Byrne served as campaign manager for former Minnesota Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, a now-retiring GOP state Senator who is the last Republican to be elected secretary of state. Jahner-Byrne also won Mrs. Minnesota in 2001, and her campaign said she has raised more than $1 million for anti-abortion activism.
"We need the purest form of election integrity, we need voter ID," Jahner-Byrne told the crowd at the convention Friday.
Her campaign announcement last year included allegations of a "lack of management, oversight and obvious insecurities" in Simon's office that caused "some of the lowest voter confidence in Minnesota history."
Simon, who has been in office since 2015, has been a steady source of GOP ire between his outspokenness on election security since 2016 and connection to a court-approved consent decree that relaxed some absentee voting requirements amid the spread of COVID-19 in 2020.
Simon, citing state and federal election assessments, has called the 2020 election one of the most secure ever and often points to Minnesota's top-ranked voter turnout rate as a clear signal of high faith in the state's election system.
Republicans' first endorsement of the day was a vote to back attorney Ryan Wilson, the lone GOP candidate aiming to take on DFL State Auditor Julie Blaha in November.
"If we can come together, if we can find the candidates willing to fight for Minnesota, our way of life, then we will win," said Wilson, adding that if elected he would help answer the question, "Where did the money go?"