The Minnesota GOP cut off access to party data for at least four endorsed candidates over the weekend, hamstringing their campaigns just three weeks before the primaries.
Two of the four candidates, Natalie Barnes and Bret Bussman, beat out incumbent Republican senators for the party’s endorsement earlier this year.
A third, Tom Dippel, is running for Senate against Tony Jurgens, a current Republican state representative.
The fourth, Mark Bishofsky, is running for an open seat in House District 33B.
Dippel described the party data as “crucial” for conducting a successful campaign, since the database includes voter contact information, physical addresses, and their political inclinations.
Barnes said the party cut off her access to the database without warning.
“At a minimum I would have expected a conversation regarding this prior to a hard cut off so we could address the issues. The Party is in place to support the endorsed candidates and creating barriers like this only hurts the process,” Barnes wrote in an email to the party.
The candidates were told they were in violation of a “data resource agreement” that requires them to update the party database.
The agreement states: “The parties acknowledge and agree that to the extent Licensee updates existing fields within the Data reflecting physical addresses, phone numbers, e-mail addresses, and general information indicating support for the GOP or another political party (e.g. indications of ‘strong Republican’ or ‘leans Democrat’), Licensee will share the work product containing such updates with Licensor.”
“Our records indicate that you have been accessing the data resources and information without providing the required information in return. Pursuant to the agreement, you are no longer permitted to use the information covered by the agreement,” the party said in an email to the candidates.
Barnes said she suspects her opponent, Sen. Eric Pratt, has access to the party’s database and “therefore us sharing our work product before the primary provides him with an unfair advantage,” she said.
“As I review the agreement I do not see the required timeline to have the data entered so I believe that I am still in compliance with our agreement. Stopping to enter data in the heat of the campaign is not the most productive use of time for our volunteers,” she added.
Bussman, who is running against Sen. Paul Utke, expressed his frustration with the party in a Facebook post Monday.
“I wanted to let everyone know that the MN GOP has taken away my access to their voter database. So, it’s officially started. Good thing I have the voter rolls from the entire State that I got from the Secretary of State’s office a few months ago. So, the Democratic Secretary of State will provide me with a list, but the MN GOP won’t,” he said.
Bussman, Barnes, Dippel, and Bishofsky are all endorsed by the Minnesota GOP. The party has been aggressively pressuring Doug Wardlow to drop out of the attorney general’s race since he is not the endorsed candidate.
Alpha News reached out to the Minnesota GOP for comment but did not receive a response.
Update: Sen. Pratt’s campaign responded to Barnes’ claims in a statement released Tuesday night.
“Additionally, Sen. Pratt’s opponent falsely claimed in an online news article that his campaign has access to the Republican Party’s database — a completely baseless statement that is entirely false,” his campaign said. “Sen. Pratt knew the challenges that would accompany running in a primary, including not having access to certain resources; his campaign has been run fairly, appropriately, and on his own merits.”