Decision on ballot expected next week
A court decision on whether Kenneth Bush’s name will remain on the ballot as a candidate for the Red Wing City Council at-large seat is expected early next week, as election deadlines quickly approach.
Attorneys and petitioner Mike Schultz presented evidence before Judge Thomas Bibus during a detailed and at times emotional hearing Friday in Goodhue County District Court.
The hearing came a few days after Schultz, a current City Council member representing Ward 3 and not seeking re-election, filed a petition Monday asking the court to remove Bush’s name from the ballot in time for the Aug. 12 primary election due to questions concerning his residency. Bibus said he realized it was a short turnaround, but it was necessary.
“Time is of the essence, as everybody understands,” he said.
Absentee voting begins Friday June 27, and printing ballots for all races in Goodhue County is on hold due to this issue, county finance controller Amy Hove, who deals with elections, said during her testimony.
Hove said they needed a decision by the day of the hearing to print actual ballots in time for Friday, but can send out copies to voters that will be transferred to official ballots by election judges once they are available if a decision is reached soon.
Bibus said he understands the urgency and plans to make a decision early next week.
Attorneys Kevin Magnuson, representing Bush, and Elizabeth Vieira, for the city and representing Kathy Johnson in her capacity as city clerk, and Schultz questioned witnesses and discussed documents during Friday’s hearing.
In his petition and arguments, Schultz said Bush does not live at 166 Cannonwood Drive in Red Wing, the address Bush listed on the second affidavit of candidacy he filed for the election, which was accepted. He listed a Stockholm, Wisconsin, address on the first, which was rejected.
“I believe there is something fundamentally wrong here at this point,” Schultz said, and called witnesses including Chad Hadler, the current owner of the Cannonwood Drive property, Mike Wilson, who rented property to Bush previously, and himself.
Magnuson said they acknowledge Bush isn’t living at the Cannonwood Drive address and that after reviewing the law and consulting with the Secretary of State’s Office it was his advice to put Bush’s last residence in Minnesota on the form. Bush said in his testimony he continues to work and be involved in the Red Wing community and never intended for the move to be permanent.
“Physical presence is an important part, there’s no doubt about it, but it’s not the only part,” Magnuson said of the residency issue.
Bush has worked on a number of developments in the area that he planned to live in when they were completed, he and his attorney said, but none have been finished yet. His business partner Steve Setzer testified that while they have faced some delays, an apartment complex they are working on together is still in progress.
Bush said he still plans to move somewhere in Red Wing before the election. He moved to the Stockholm property to work on a business development and living there made the most sense at the time, he said.
Vieira said the city wanted to speak to the case to preserve the integrity of the election process. The city is not required and doesn’t have the authority to verify the accuracy of information on the affidavits of candidacy it receives and must pass them along as long as requirements are met and procedures followed, Johnson said.
Exchanges during Schultz’s questioning of Bush at times got heated. But both parties said in the end they were acting on principle and were focused on the truth.
“I didn’t come here to hurt anybody today,” Schultz said in his closing statement, saying instead his focus was asking the court to determine whether Bush is eligible at this point to run for Red Wing City Council.
Magnuson said at all points throughout the process Bush believed he was acting within the law and with good intentions.
“There’s no attempt at deception here,” he said. The question for the court rests on the definition of “eligible voter” and residency, he said.
Bibus said he will accept written arguments from the parties until 10 a.m. Monday.
Three other candidates — Erik C. Fridell, Kalista Kaufmann-Willi and Dustin J. Schulenberg — also are seeking the at-large seat on the Red Wing City Council.