Fact Check: Outside groups' claims against Secretary of State candidate mostly hit the mark

In the race for Minnesota secretary of state, much of the 2022 campaign is about 2020.

Like in several other states, Minnesota's contest pits a Democratic incumbent against a Republican challenger who questions the 2020 election results. Republican Kim Crockett criticizes DFL Secretary of State Steve Simon's actions, while Simon says Crockett promotes "the big lie" about the 2020 results.

Two national Democratic groups have booked $1.7 million in television ads on Twin Cities stations -- with more to come -- blasting Crockett for her opposition to early voting and having views that are been controversial in her own party. The claims are mostly accurate, a FOX 9 Fact Check finds.

Crockett as 'election denier'

The Democratic Secretaries of State Association is responsible for one of the ads through its PAC, Safe and Fair Elections Minnesota. The group has already reserved about $1.3 million in ad time in the Twin Cities, and is spending big in three states where the chief election official is on the ballot.

The ad depicts Simon as a defender of voting rights before criticizing Crockett.

"This November, our rights are under attack. Kim Crockett proudly calls herself 'your election denier-in-chief,'" the ad says, using a video snippet of Crockett saying the "election denier-in-chief" portion.

This needs clarification.

It's fair to call Crockett an election skeptic. She's said she doesn't know whether former President Donald Trump won Minnesota in 2020, though the results show President Joe Biden won by a comfortable 233,000 votes.

But Crockett doesn't proudly call herself an election denier, as the ad claims. Instead, Crockett says she's raised legitimate concerns and Democrats have turned her into a "dangerous pariah," as she told supporters in a fundraising email this year.

As for the video of Crockett calling herself the "election denier-in-chief," it happened during a GOP rally in Champlin this June. There, Crockett mocked Democrats and the news media for attaching the label to her, which she called "absurd."

The ad goes on to accurately say what Crockett wants to do if she wins office.

"She wants to shorten early voting and wants fewer people voting by mail," the ad says. 

This is true. Crockett opposes Minnesota's 46-day early voting window and favors shortening it to one or two weeks. She has repeatedly said people should vote in-person, either on election day or in the week before the election at their local city hall.

In 2020, 58% of Minnesotans who cast ballots did so by voting early during the COVID-19 pandemic. Based on the early vote percentages in the 2021 municipal elections and 2022 primary, early voting isn't as popular this year now that the pandemic has waned. 

Simon signed a consent decree with liberal groups who sued Minnesota in 2020 that relaxed two regulations on early voting in 2020. One waived the witness signature requirement, while the other allowed mail-ballot votes to count up to one week after the election as long as they were postmarked by Election Day. Crockett has said the changes invited fraud without presenting evidence of widespread mischief. 

'Controversial' views

The second ad comes from iVOTE, a Democratic group that supports automatic voter registration. Based on initial reservations, iVOTE's spending on TV ads could be even bigger than the other group, SAFE MN.

The iVOTE ad portrays Crockett as having extreme views.

"First, she makes ugly remarks about Somalis, which got her suspended without pay for her job," the ad says.

This is true, and refers to Crockett's criticism of a Somali refugee resettlement program in St. Cloud. In 2019, she told The New York Times, "These people aren't coming from Norway, let's put it that way."

Her employer at the time, the conservative Center for the American Experiment, suspended her without pay for 30 days. Crockett, who was the group's general counsel, later apologized and ultimately left the organization. The group has since removed Crockett's apology from its website.

The ad also zeroes in on a hype video that Crockett's campaign showed at this year's Minnesota GOP convention.

"Then Crockett makes a video with anti-Semitic themes, forcing the Republican chair to apologize for it," the ad says.

This is also true. Crockett's video portrayed Democratic donor George Soros, who is Jewish, as a puppet master, using an anti-Semitic trope.

GOP Chairman David Hann did issue an apology several days later, after he said he discussed the issue with staff from the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas.

"It should not have happened, we apologize, and are committed to working with the JCRC to educate our staff and candidates on anti-Semitism," Hann said. He said Crockett and the makers of the video weren't aware that the depiction was an anti-Semitic trope.

Crockett said the whole thing was a media smear. She appeared to brush it off in an email to supporters, including a photo of herself sitting lakeside holding a Tucker Carlson book.