Despite losing his credibility, Mark Ritchie is refusing to step aside for the January 3 special election to replace Sen. Tom Neuville:

A Republican effort to push Democratic Secretary of State Mark Ritchie aside during an upcoming special election went nowhere Thursday.

Ritchie rejected the suggestion through his spokesman, John Aiken.

GOP Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem and Senator Chris Gerlach (GER’-lahk) said they were uncomfortable with Ritchie overseeing a Jan. 3 special Senate election while the secretary is being investigated by the legislative auditor for alleged use of a state mailing list for political purposes. They urged Ritchie to hand over control of his office to a deputy until the investigation is resolved.

DFL Party Chairman Brian Melendez said there’s no reason for Ritchie to take a break from his job.

According to this Mark Brunswick article in the STrib, Brian Melendez has returned to saying foolish things:

Sen. Chris Gerlach, R-Apple Valley, the ranking member of the Senate committee that oversees state government, said the Republican caucus was concerned about “getting a fair shake” in the upcoming Jan. 3 election to replace Sen. Tom Neuville, who was recently appointed a judge.

“This is not meant to be punitive, this is not meant to be another round of gotcha politics. This is meant to be a balanced measure, a fair and reasonable response to real concerns about a serious issue,” Gerlach said. At a Capitol news conference, the Republicans urged Ritchie to step aside and allow his elections deputy to oversee the election.

DFL Party chair Brian Melendez was quick to characterize the request as a “maneuver that stinks of political desperation,” saying Republicans were trying to deflect attention from the troubles of Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s Department of Transportation and its commissioner, Carol Molnau.

“Mark Ritchie is an elected constitutional officer of this state. He has a job to do and he’s going to do it,” Melendez said.

I can’t believe that Melendez is foolish enough to say that the MNGOP was acting out of “political desperation”, especially when it’s the DFL & Mark Ritchie, that’s taken the biggest political hit in recent Minnesota history. It’s time someone on his staff told Melendez that credibility matters & that he doesn’t have much credibility left.

It’s easy to believe that most Minnesotans who’ve heard Sen. Gerlach’s plan would think that it’s a rather measured, reasonable solution to the situation.

UPDATE: I just got an official statement from Rep. Laura Brod, (R-New Prague), on Mark Ritchie’s refusal to not step aside for the January 3 special election. Here’s Rep. Brod’s statement:

“It is unfortunate that Secretary Ritchie does not seem to want to recognize either the seriousness of his actions or that those same actions have put the integrity of both he and the Office of the Secretary at risk. The facts are that the Secretary himself offered misleading answers that lacked honesty and has violated the trust of Minnesotans by doing so. The Office of Secretary of State and the duties executed by the office related to elections are too important to allow the Secretary to play partisan politics with. The fact that he used his public office for political fundraising and partisan gain in and of itself was a mistake.

The fact that he was less than truthful about his actions is a serious issue that calls his judgement related to all matters, including his ability to fairly administer elections in a non-partisan way, into question.

For the sake of the integrity of the office which safeguards our fundamental right to vote, I hope Secretary Ritchie will step back and allow someone who is not under significant scrutiny by the legislative auditor to manage the special election in senate district 25.”

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