The Pot Party nominee for US House has GOP ties; Democrats claim she’s a spoiler
US Representative Angie Craig lost her first congressional race in 2016 to Jason Lewis by just 6,655 votes. She was hampered, say Democrats, by the strong performance of Independence Party candidate Paula Overby, who won nearly 29,000 votes in the 2nd arrondissement.
Democrats fear a repeat this year — and point to Overby’s close ties to a Republican activist in the camp of Tyler Kistner, Craig’s Republican challenger.
Overby, an Eagan resident, is running under the Legal Marijuana Now Party banner this year. Democrats believe Republicans are colluding with friendly candidates like Overby to run to the state’s two-party marijuana legalization line – Legal Marijuana Now and Grassroots Legalize Cannabis – to get votes from Democratic candidates. farmer-workers, who is the scenario that played out in the 2020 races.
Overby has been a longtime advocate of alternative parties, arguing that the country’s two-party system is failing and that there should be diversity in political parties so people can choose a party consistent with their beliefs. She says the accusation that candidates like her are running simply to take away votes from Democrats is an old lie.
“There is no truth in that. We represent independent voters — people who are tired of the two-party system,” Overby told the Reformer. “It’s a fake story. It’s a story they created to scare people away from third parties.
Nonetheless, Overby acknowledged that she was generally conservative, particularly on tax issues, and had surrounded herself with conservatives. His campaign treasurer, Joleen Johnson, posted a photo of herself on Facebook with a flag depicting President Donald Trump photoshopped as “Rambo” holding a bazooka.
Overby posts photos and status updates identifying a man known colloquially as “Liberty Longbeard”, who was in the past a delegate for Kistner – the Republican trying to unseat Craig.
Liberty Longbeard, aka Paul Tuschy, is a longtime Republican activist and former GOP State House candidate. Tuschy was a 2020 campaign adviser for the late Adam Weeks, another Legal Marijuana Now candidate in the 2nd District with strong Republican ties.
Tuschy told the Reformer in a text message that he is friends with Overby and has informally provided ideas for his campaign, but has never done paid work or held an official position.
Overby told the Reformer the work he does for his campaign could ‘qualify’ him as a campaign manager.
In 2020, the Kistner paid campaign $2,000 to a business registered by Tuschy.
Asked about that payment, Kistner’s campaign spokesman Billy Grant said the payment to Tuschy was for “preparatory work.” He denied that Kistner’s campaign is coordinating with Overby beyond trying to organize a debate in the 2nd congressional district.
Asked about the 2020 payment and the connection to Tuschy, Grant replied sarcastically.
“I congratulate you on your groundbreaking journalism,” he said. “I’m sure this is a story that worries most people in Minnesota. At some point some of you might want to write about the economy, all the layoffs that are happening – stuff like that – but, you know, if you want to hunt stuff like that, I guess that’s cool.
The 2020 2nd District election rocked after weeks – running as a candidate for Legal Marijuana Now – passed away in September 2020.
The Tribune of the Stars reported later that months before the election, Weeks admitted to a friend via voicemail that Republicans in the 2nd congressional district had recruited him to “take votes away” from Craig.
The plot could have consequences.
Craig narrowly beat Kistner in 2020, winning by 9,580 votes. This year’s race for Minnesota’s 2nd district is among the most competitive 32 U.S. House seats in the nation, according to the Bake the political report.
This race will likely be the closest to Minnesota and the one to be closely watched nationally, as Democrats currently hold a slim majority in the US House. The 2nd is an indicator of the type of suburban neighborhoods Democrats must defend if they want to keep their narrow majority.
DFL chairman Ken Martin said in a statement to the Reformer that the Republicans are using the same playbook they attempted in 2020.
“Given her close ties to Republican operatives who have played the same trick before, it’s clear that Paula Overby is another spoiler Republican candidate running for office to elect Republican Tyler Kistner,” Martin said. “Voters who choose Paula Overby are actively helping to elect a Republican whose values do not match those of residents of the 2nd Congressional District.”
Overby said Democrats have always gone to extreme lengths to discredit third-party candidates.
“It’s the Democrats attacking the third party at every opportunity they can find,” Overby said.