Campaign sign complaint dismissed

A complaint regarding the use of the word “Republican” on campaign lawn signs promoting State Senate District 47 incumbent candidate Julianne Ortman before the primary election in August was recently dismissed by a three-judge panel from the State of Minnesota Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). The complaint was filed by supporters of Ortman’s primary election opponent, Bruce Schwichtenberg.
On Aug. 1, members of Schwichtenberg for Senate filed a complaint with the OAH alleging that the signs violated state statute because they falsely implied that Ortman had the Republican Party endorsement. Neither candidate had 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 in the year.
In material sent to the OAH, two different signs were presented as evidence. One sign read “Vote August 14, Julianne Ortman, Republican for Minnesota Senate” and another read “Julianne Ortman, Republican for State Senate.”
The panel was unanimous in its decision to dismiss the complaint.
According to the Judges’ Memorandum, “The Panel concludes that the use of the word ‘Republican’ … does not, standing alone, imply endorsement by the Republican Party. Rather, it signifies membership in or affiliation with the political party. … As the incumbent Republican candidate in a partisan race, and a senior member of the Minnesota Senate Republican Caucus, Senator Ortman accurately referred to herself as a Republican.”
Ortman was pleased with the ruling.
“This is the argument we were making throughout the proceedings: I’m a Republican, and I have the right to communicate that to voters,” Ortman said. “I am elated that the Judges re-affirmed a candidate’s right to communicate with voters, and the voters’ right to hear political speech.”
In the primary election, Ortman received 2,114 votes (58.43 percent) and defeated Schwichtenberg, who received 1,504 votes (41.57 percent). Ortman also received the endorsement of the Executive Committee of the Carver County GOP on Sept. 13.
In the general election, Ortman will face James F. Weygand (DFL).