Ron Paul backer announces Minn. Senate bid as Independence Party candidate

Hannah Nicollet
Independence Party senate candidate Hannah Nicollet photographed Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014 at MPR studios in St. Paul.
Jennifer Simonson/MPR News

A Roseville resident who backed former Texas U.S. Rep. Ron Paul's campaign for president in 2012 plans to run for the Independence Party's nomination for U.S. Senate.

Hannah Nicollet is the first person to step forward as an IP candidate to challenge Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken.

Nicollet, 39, got her start in politics as a teenager, volunteering for Ross Perot's presidential campaign in 1992. Since then, she has backed candidates representing the Independence Party, the Libertarian Party and the Republican Party. But she emphasized that she isn't a big backer of the three parties.

"Once you swear allegiance to one party, they may put somebody in charge who is suddenly bought off by special interests, and then your allegiance goes in that direction," she said. "I'm never willing to do that so I always base it on individuals."

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Most recently, Nicollet has been inspired by Paul, who sought the Republican nomination for president in 2012 and attracted libertarians and some tea party supporters to his campaign.

Nicollet said she decided to run for the U.S. Senate as a member of the Independence Party because it fits her philosophy of being fiscally conservative and socially liberal. She said she made the decision to run in December after becoming frustrated with the data collection practices of the National Security Agency, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and the size of the federal debt.

"The debt puts us in a very precarious situation nationally," she said. "National Security, if you want to talk about national security, our debt is a threat to it. The biggest threat, I would say."

If elected, Nicollet said she would aim to reduce the federal deficit by cutting foreign aid, cutting defense spending and eliminating subsidies to business.

As for social issues, Nicollet said she doesn't think the government should be involved in deciding who can get married. She also said she would oppose efforts to outlaw abortion but does not support federal funding for abortion providers or partial birth or late-term abortions.

Nicollet also said she opposes the war on drugs, calling it a failure that has incarcerated too many people. She said politicians, including presidents, have admitted to smoking marijuana.

"Are they criminals or are they not?" she asked. "Are we electing criminals to the highest office in the land? If they aren't, then why are people sitting in jails for doing the same thing that they did right now?"

Nicollet, who has a background in software development and photography, said she is a stay-at-home mom raising her two daughters.

She is joining a U.S. Senate race that includes Franken and six Republican candidates. If she were to win the Independence Party nomination she would likely appeal to voters who might otherwise vote Republican.

Independence Party Chair Mark Jenkins said he hopes Nicollet is the first of several Independence Party candidates to announce a run for statewide office. He said Nicollet has a background that's in line with ordinary Minnesotans.

"Sometimes, and all too often, our representatives are very wealthy, very famous people who don't always connect with the rest of the people in the state," Jenkins said. "For her, I think that's an advantage."

While Jenkins said Nicollet's candidacy is compelling, he hopes others jump into the race. He said that would give party delegates options during their May 17 endorsing convention in Mankato.