Secretary of State candidate John Howe: We need an election system that values honesty and fair play

Guest column from Secretary of State candidate John Howe

John Howe for Secretary of State

I’m so proud right now to be part of a great conservative team that is giving Minnesota voters a genuine alternative to the failures and flawed policies that a generation of liberals have inflicted on our great state. 

As we’ve campaigned through the summer, all of the Republican candidates have gotten to know each other better and really have begun to feel like part of a team. It seems that at virtually every parade, county fair or BPOU picnic, I either share speaking time with Jeff Johnson, Donna Bergstrom, Karin Housley, Jim Newberger, Doug Wardlow or Pam Myrha…sometimes with all of them!

The reason I chose to run for Secretary of State is that I have an absolute passion for ensuring that Minnesota’s elections are open, honest, and fair. Why do I feel that way? What drives my passion?

Personal experience.

In 2012, I was running for re-election to the Minnesota Senate, in a seat I had won the previous election cycle with 55 percent of the vote.

Then my opponent cheated. He violated Minnesota campaign law by coordinating with a political organization, receiving its help to win the election. In all, 13 DFL candidates were found to be in violation of the law, and 11 of those candidates won their races.

So what was the punishment for blatantly violating the law? Surely you can’t cheat to win an election and then keep your seat, can you?

In turns out that, in Minnesota, you can. After an investigation, the Minnesota DFL paid a $100,000 settlement to the Minnesota Campaign Finance Board, and all 11 cheaters got to keep their place in the Minnesota Senate. It gave the DFL the majority in the Minnesota Senate, which led to massive tax and spending increases.

I think that for most Minnesotans, that violates our basic sense of fairness. If a Packers lineman is holding when Green Bay scores a touchdown, the points come off the board. If the Blackhawks are offside right before scoring a goal against the Minnesota Wild the goal is waved off. You don’t get to win by cheating.

And the $100,000 settlement paid by the DFL certainly did not act as a deterrent: Before his next campaign, my opponent was caught again and fined, this time for taking thousands and thousands of dollars in illegal campaign contributions.

Under current law, the Minnesota Secretary of State oversees our elections, and the office doesn’t have the authority to overturn an election. But the Secretary of State can work with the Legislature and governor to ensure our election laws have teeth and are enforced.

My pledge to the voters of Minnesota is that I will do everything in my power to ensure elections are fair, honest, and open — and that cheating will never be the path to an undeserved victory.

I grew up on a farm in western Minnesota where I learned the same values of honesty and hard work that drive most Minnesotans. I lived those values as a business owner, mayor of Red Wing, and state senator. Those values drive every member of my family — including my son David, a cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy.

I believe the Secretary of State’s office should not be used for partisan political advantage. Losing an election to an opponent who cheated was a disappointment, but I want the ultimate outcome to be the creation of an elections system that reflects the Minnesota values of honesty and fair play.

John Howe is the Republican candidate for Secretary of State.

John Howe