Paula Overby, a third-party candidate running in Minnesota's most competitive congressional district, has died at age 68, a family member said Wednesday.
Her death comes as early voting is underway in the Second District, where Democratic U.S. Rep. Angie Craig is facing off with Republican Tyler Kistner in a heated race that could help decide control of the House.
Overby, running as part of the Legal Marijuana Now party, was the only other candidate on the ballot in the district that includes suburbs in the south metro and rural communities.
She is the second Legal Marijuana Now candidate to die shortly before an election in the Second District. In 2020, the substance abuse-related death of the party's candidate, Adam Weeks, also came a little more than a month before Election Day.
Weeks' death prompted a legal fight over the timing of the 2020 Second District election, as the GOP argued for a delayed special election. Judges ultimately sided with Democrats who pushed to hold the election as originally scheduled. The Secretary of State's office noted Wednesday afternoon that given the court ruling in the last election the Nov. 8 ballots would remain unchanged and the Second District election would proceed as scheduled, barring a new court order.
Overby's son Tyler said one of her heart valves was failing. He remembered her as someone who loved "having conversations about anything with anybody."
"She was great," Tyler Overby said. "She was a[n] extroverted introvert, but she was always selfless."
Overby was a longtime third-party candidate, having repeatedly run for the Second District seat and challenging U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar as a Green Party candidate in 2018.
Legal Marijuana Now Party Chairman Tim Davis said Overby was very active in third-party politics and tried to bring people together. He said he recently heard she had gone to the hospital and was having heart problems but was "gobsmacked" by her death.
"We probably won't have a candidate. It's too short a time period at this junction; there's only three and a half weeks to go. It would be very difficult for us to have a candidate," Davis said of the Second District, but he noted his party — which has major-party status — was meeting Wednesday evening and would discuss the situation.
When Overby launched her first bid for the Second District several elections ago, she said she did not want to make her gender identity a focus of her campaign. But she said her journey as a transgender woman informed her political views and distrust of the two-party system.
"The whole idea of a binary process [in politics] … it's really not a realistic model. It does create this polarization we see in our political process," Overby told the Star Tribune at the time. She said then that she aimed to draw attention to issues affecting minority groups.
Both Craig and Kistner issued statements sending condolences to Overby's family.
"Minnesota is better for her involvement in our community and she will be missed," Craig said.
"Paula Overby cared deeply about our state, and the principles she believed in," Kistner said. "It was an honor to have gotten to know Paula throughout this campaign."
Overby was the technology director for the Friends School of Minnesota, and her profile on the school's website notes that "[in] addition to over 30 years experience in technology, Paula brings a lifetime of social justice work and activism to the Friends School."
She was the author of "The Transgender Myth" and was a mental health counselor, domestic violence advocate and political candidate, the short biography adds.
Her campaign website stresses that she has a track record of opposing "endless wars" that threaten the environment and of challenging corporate profiteering that she said has undermined the health care system.