DFL’s Martin says Trump court case loss a win

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Minnesota DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin gestures as Republican Party Chairman Keith Downey looks on during a forum in Blaine. MPR Photo | Brian Bakst

In his first extended comments since challenging Donald Trump's place on Minnesota's election ballot, DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin suggested his party was probably better off losing the court case.

Martin assessed the legal defeat Wednesday night at at MetroNorth Chamber of Commerce political forum in Blaine, where he appeared with Minnesota Republican Party Chairman Keith Downey.

The forum, which I moderated, touched on a DFL challenge to Trump's ballot status that was dismissed Monday by the Minnesota Supreme Court. Martin said the goal of filing the lawsuit was to highlight shortcomings with Republican candidate paperwork on Trump's behalf. He said leaving Trump on the ballot will help Democrats because he believes it will increase turnout among people in his party and depress it among Republicans.

"Having Trump removed from that ballot would have hurt us, not helped us," Martin said. "This was about holding the Republicans accountable."

Later in the forum, Martin said Trump might win parts of Minnesota but not do well enough to help down-ballot Republican candidates survive tough races in places Democrats would otherwise find it tough to prevail.

Democrats contended that the GOP failed to abide by state law because it didn't properly elect its 10 electors and 10 alternate electors who could be called upon to validate a Trump Minnesota win.

Downey insisted Republicans lived up to the requirements and said Trump's ballot standing would not have been certified if they didn't.

In tossing the DFL petition, the high court said the party waited too long to press its case and didn't rule on the merits of the underlying argument.

The DFL's Martin denied his party's nominee, Hillary Clinton, and her campaign drove the decision to sue.

But Downey said the ordeal will boomerang on Democrats.

"If anything, the Trump campaign supporters are more motivated. Rank-and-file people looked at it and said, 'What in the world were the Democrats trying to do?' I think it hurt them and I think it backfired pretty badly," Downey said.

Downey said Democratic predictions that Trump would drag down GOP candidates are unfounded.

"What I think we're actually seeing in the polling is the presidential race -- I'll say the many months spectacle of Trump v. Clinton -- is running on a plain all to itself and I don't think we're seeing the nationalization from an issues standpoint of the local races," he said.

Downey said he still thinks Trump has a shot in Minnesota, a state he said the GOP nominee views as a place he can "steal."

"Say what you will about the candidates and their style points and whether you agree with the comments they've made, we'll have a candidate who is an outsider with a willingness to take on political correctness and the establishment and everything we know is wrong in Washington D.C. ," Downey said. "And the Democrats will arguably have icon of the Washington insider establishment. And in a year of change like this, I think that contrast probably favors us."

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