By Todd Moen
The use of the word "Republican" on campaign lawn signs promoting State Senate District 47 incumbent candidate Julianne Ortman has prompted supporters of her primary election opponent, Bruce Schwichtenberg, to file a complaint with the State of Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH).
On Aug. 1, members of Schwichtenberg for Senate filed a complaint with the OAH alleging that the signs violate state statute because they falsely imply that Ortman has the Republican Party endorsement. Neither candidate has the party’s endorsement because neither received the necessary 60 percent of votes after five rounds of balloting during the party’s district endorsement convention held earlier this year.
In material sent to the OAH, two different signs were presented as evidence. One sign reads "Vote August 14, Julianne Ortman, Republican for Minnesota Senate" and another says "Julianne Ortman, Republican for State Senate."
In an email to the newspaper, Schwichtenberg said the signs undermine the voice of the grassroots, activists, delegates and alternates and citizens of Carver County.
"There was no endorsement and her actions to this point may already have cause irreparable harm to our campaign," he said. "Many people have given their time, money and support to our campaign and to have their efforts thwarted by illegal and unethical actions is inexcusable."
Ortman argued that there was no misuse of the word "Republican" on the signs.
"My opponent and I are both members of the Republican Party and running in the Republican Primary Aug. 14; the sample ballots identify us both as Republicans," she wrote in an email to the newspaper.
"We both filed an Affidavit of Candidacy with the Secretary of State, which inquired, under penalty of perjury, to declare a party affiliation. We both declared ourselves to be Republicans," Ortman continued. "I am optimistic that the OAH will uphold our ability to communicate this information to voters, and our right of free speech contained in the First Amendment to the Constitution."
A probable cause hearing was to be held by the OAH on Tuesday, Aug. 7. At that time, the OAH was to decide whether or not it would dismiss the case or plan an evidentiary hearing. The OAH’s ruling was not available when this edition went to press.
The primary election will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 14.