Minnesota GOP ballot challenge is ‘outside noise,’ Trump campaign official says

The lawsuit challenging Minnesota Republicans’ March 3 primary ballot that only lists President Donald Trump by name is “outside noise,” a Trump campaign official said Monday.

Republican candidate Rocky de la Fuente sued in December after the Minnesota GOP left him and other little-known candidates off the ballot. The state Supreme Court is scheduled to hear oral arguments Thursday, just eight days before the start of absentee voting.

Minnesota Democrats have argued that the court should not force the GOP to re-do its ballot. Republicans had not filed a brief with the court as of Monday.

“This is a party that has record support for our president – 90 to 95 percent in all of our internal polling,” Marc Lotter, a Trump campaign spokesman, said in an interview. “He will be the nominee, and I think the rest of this is just distractions and outside noise.”

Minnesota is conducting its first presidential primary in 2020 since switching from a caucus format. Republican voters will see Trump’s name and a write-in option, while Democratic voters will have 15 candidates to choose from.

Democrats left three little-known candidates off their own ballot, while one of the candidates who will appear – Julian Castro – has dropped out of the race.

David Schultz, a Hamline University political science professor, said he expects the Supreme Court to let Republicans keep their ballot as-is.

“The law generally favors parties to be able to make these decisions regarding who gets to appear on the ballot, or who their voters get to consider for the primaries,” Schultz said.

Attorney General Keith Ellison and Secretary of State Steve Simon – both Democrats – filed a brief last week urging justices to reject de la Fuente’s challenge. The parties have the right to associate with whomever they want, Ellison and Simon said.

“(The secretary of state) could not lawfully require the Republican party’s presidential nomination primary ballot to include the name of a candidate that the party, in its exercise of its First Amendment right to freedom of association, had elected not to associate with,” Ellison and Simon argued.

Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin has said he expects a spirited Democratic primary and many candidate appearances in the state before Minnesota’s primary on March 3, also known as Super Tuesday because more than a dozen other states also vote that day.

Lotter, the Trump campaign spokesman, said the GOP would use the primary as a “dry run” for November’s general election even though Trump has no challengers on the ballot.

“Our focus is squarely focused on the general election,” Lotter said. “So in this case, this gives us an early opportunity to identify great areas, areas where we need to continue to do more work, and that’s what we’ll take this primary as an opportunity to do.”