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Dornink says ‘frivolous’ filing challenging residency should be tossed

Secretary of State Steve Simon also weighed in, saying the petition questioning Dornink’s residency should be “procedurally barred” because it was filed less than two weeks before the primary.

Republican State Sen. Gene Dornink and primary opponent Lisa Hanson.

Republican state Sen. Gene Dornink on Monday asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to throw out a petition challenging his residency in southern Minnesota’s Senate District 23, saying through an attorney that the filing was “wholly frivolous” and not submitted at the proper time.

In a legal filing, Dornink said he has resided at his home in Brownsdale since early May, enough time to qualify for the November general election ballot and the Aug. 9 primary. “My only overnight absences were as a result of legislative service,” says a declaration sent to the court.

Judy Olson of Glenville had asked the Minnesota Supreme Court to remove Dornink from the primary ballot, citing surveillance by her and by Keith Haskell, a former campaign manager for Dornink’s Republican challenger Lisa Hanson. They claimed Dornink wasn’t actually living at the Brownsdale home. Hanson is not a named party on Olson’s petition.

Dornink announced a move from Hayfield after his district lines changed following the 2020 Census. His attorney also argued Olson “unreasonably delayed” filing her claim, which was filed less than two weeks before the primary. That would violate a court doctrine. 

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Secretary of State Steve Simon took no position on whether Dornink was a resident of SD 23. But he also said the legal challenge should be “procedurally barred,” according to a filing from Attorney General Keith Ellison. Olson could have filed a petition in May, the AG wrote, when she says purported evidence was first collected.

“Here, Petitioner sat on her rights for over two months before challenging Dornink’s placement on the primary ballot,” the state filing says. “As a result of that delay, her challenge is now in front of the Court after ballots have already been printed, assistive equipment has already been programmed, and voters have already voted for the Senate District 23 primary election.” Early voting has been going on for more than a month.

Olson’s attorney Richard Dahl responded in part by saying Olson had drafted a complaint earlier, in early June, but was “misinformed” by a county attorney and the Secretary of State’s office about how and where to file the petition. (Simon denied this.)

When MinnPost reached Hanson on Monday, she said she believes Olson’s allegations and said Democrats would have tried to remove Dornink from the ballot before a general election if Olson hadn’t filed her petition now.