Minnesota's top election official announced Tuesday that he will step down after his current term.
Democrat Mark Ritchie of Minneapolis said he will not seek re-election as Secretary of State next year. Candidates for the job have already begun to surface.
As elections chief, Ritchie presided over two high-profile statewide recounts. There was the 2008 U.S. Senate race between Al Franken and Norm Coleman, and the 2010 gubernatorial race between Mark Dayton and Tom Emmer. Ritchie said he will always be proud of how the state performed under the political microscope, even though it often focused on him, as well.
"Any elected job comes with a lot of public scrutiny, and there are partisan activities that go on as part of our whole democratic process," Ritchie said. "But it seemed like Minnesota had a chance to show off this incredible election system that we have, and to draw attention to the fact that we are always the number-one voting state in the nation. I feel very proud of just how Minnesota was able to shine in those kind of high octane or high visibility moments."
Ritchie was first elected in 2006, when he defeated incumbent Republican Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer. He won re-election four years later. Ritchie, now 61, said his decision about whether to run another campaign came after months of family discussions. He decided the time will be right for him to step aside and make way for new leadership, he said.
"Making my announcement now makes it possible for excellent candidates to consider and get into the race if it's the right thing for them," Ritchie said.
Ritchie said he expects many candidates to step forward. But one clearly stepped quicker than the rest.
Rachel Bohman, former elections manager for Hennepin County, announced her candidacy in a news release about a half hour after Ritchie's announcement. She also had a Facebook page for her campaign in place. Bohman, who stepped down from her county job last week, said she had only heard rumblings about Ritchie's decision to not run again and wanted to be ready.
"I heard some rumors. I was seriously considering it, and have really wanted to seek this office for a long time," Bohman said. "When the opportunity or potential opportunity arose, I wanted to make sure that I was prepared to tell Minnesota how I felt and excited to announce my future here."
Republicans, who now are now aiming for an open executive branch seat, see it differently. State GOP Chair Keith Downey said he believes Ritchie clearly gave Bohman a heads-up about his decision. He said it was another example of Ritchie's partisan approach to public office. Downey also noted a 2007 dustup over Ritchie's use of a state government mailing list for political purposes, and a lawsuit last year over his rewording of the ballot titles for two GOP-sponsored constitutional amendments.
"I think you'll see plenty of pent-up demand on the part of Republicans to get in the race and put that office back in the hands of someone who will use it in a less partisan fashion," Downey said.
Several names have surfaced as possible Secretary of State candidates. Rep. Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers said she is considering the race. Rep. Steve Simon, DFL-Hopkins and former DFL Rep. Jeremy Kalin have said they are also thinking about running.