Oct 5, 2022 - Politics

Minnesota congressional candidate Paula Overby dies weeks before election

Paula Overby

Paula Overby speaks at an August forum at FarmFest. Screenshot via the American Farm Bureau on Vimeo

Paula Overby, a third-party candidate running in one of the Minnesota's most competitive congressional races, has died with less than five weeks to go until Election Day.

What happened: Overby, the Legal Marijuana Now Party's nominee in the 2nd Congressional District, died Wednesday morning following complications related to a failing heart valve, her son confirmed to Axios. She was 68.

Background: Overby, a quality assurance analyst from Eagan, had run for office multiple times since entering politics in 2014. At the time of her first bid for the suburban Twin Cities swing seat, she was the first openly transgender person to run for Congress in Minnesota.

  • Her top campaign issues included ending the war on drugs, addressing what she called "corporate profiteering" in health care and "building a political movement that can successfully challenge... the incumbency lock of the two major parties," according to her website.
  • "She's really passionate about bringing minor parties together," Tyler Overby told Axios of his mom, who also ran as an independent and for U.S. Senate as both a DFL and Green Party candidate. "She wanted everyone to have a voice there and [to] bring people together and find common ground for problems that our society faces."

Zoom out: Overby's death, which was first reported by MPR News, is expected to upend the race for the suburban swing district. She was unlikely to win this November, but her performance could impact the outcome of the battleground rematch between Democratic U.S. Rep. Angie Craig and Republican Tyler Kistner.

  • Overby won nearly 8% of the vote in 2016, when then-U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis narrowly defeated Craig.
  • Top Democrats had accused Overby of being a "Republican spoiler candidate" meant to help Kistner, pointing to her close ties to a GOP activist. Overby dismissed the attacks in a recent interview with the Minnesota Reformer, saying it was a "false narrative...created to frighten people away from third parties."

Flashback: In 2020, a different pro-marijuana legalization candidate running for the seat died just weeks before the election.

  • But the courts eventually ruled that the race should remain on the November ballot and Craig went on to defeat Kistner by a 2-point margin. Weeks carried about 6% of the vote that year.

What they're saying: Legal Marijuana Now Chair Tim Davis told Axios that Overby's death "caught everybody by surprise."

  • "We're pretty much in shock and just gotta figure out okay, now what?" he said. "This is the second time this has happened in the last two years."

Context: Overby's campaign had gone dark in recent weeks. She last posted to social media on Sept. 12.

  • "Occasionally, you just need to take a break from politics," her last tweet read.
  • Morning Take writer Blois Olson reported on Sept. 21 that Overby did not participate in a series of candidate interviews he hosted on WCCO earlier that week "because she was hospitalized."

What's next: Secretary of State Steve Simon issued a statement yesterday indicating that the election is expected to go on as planned for November given the court's past ruling.

  • That means Overby remains on the ballot and votes cast for her will count toward the final tally.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.


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