Court referee concludes Sen. Torrey Westrom resides in Senate District 12
One of his opponents in the race, Ashley Klingbeil of Alexandria, filed a petition with the Minnesota Supreme Court, asking the court to remove Westrom's name from the Nov. 8 ballot.
ST. PAUL, MN – A court-appointed referee determined Wednesday, Aug. 31 that state Sen. Torrey Westrom, R-Alexandria, resides within the boundaries of the new Senate District 12 following redistricting and does meet the residency requirement for the 2022 General Election.
Ashley Klingbeil of Alexandria, an independent candidate running for the District 12 Senate seat, and her campaign manager filed a petition with the Minnesota Supreme Court on Aug. 8, asking the court to remove Westrom’s name from the Nov. 8 ballot. They alleged that Westrom had not established his residency in the district by May 8, the required six months from the general election.
Senate District 12 comprises portions of Douglas and Stearns and all of Big Stone, Pope, Stevens and Swift counties. Klingbeil’s petition claimed that Westrom was still living in Elbow Lake, which is not in Senate District 12.
“I’m grateful that after a two-day trial, the conclusion matches what we’ve said from the beginning, that we moved last May and I had properly changed residency before May 8, 2022, and we do indeed live in Senate District 12 and meet the residency requirement for the election,” Westrom said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to continuing on the campaign trail, advocating for our rural values, and meeting with voters to earn their support.”
David Hann, chair of the Minnesota Republican Party also issued a statement: “This is great news that confirms what we already knew — this complaint was without merit.”
The referee stated the petitioners’ evidence was “thin” while Westrom provided "credible" evidence of his residency and his intent to stay at the Scenic View RV Resort and Campground on Lake Mary.
“In sum, the evidence Westrom presented to support his claim that he now resides in Senate District 12 is not overwhelming. Still, the evidence established by a preponderance that Westrom has resided at the Lake Mary property since May 7, 2022, given the short period of time he had to move after redistricting changed the boundaries for Senate District 12. Thus, Westrom has satisfied the residency requirement to run for senator in Senate District 12,” the Supreme Court-appointed referee, Judge Diane B. Bratvold, stated.
The Supreme Court will make a final decision based on the findings at a later date.
Klingbeil and her campaign manager conducted a two-week investigation on Westrom's previously claimed home in Elbow Lake and the Lake Mary residence, Klingbeil said in an email to the Echo Press.
“At the Elbow Lake house, we documented a well-kept home with human presence several nights in a row,” she said. “At the Lake Mary house we documented an abandoned-looking property with no human presence several nights in a row.
“While I disagree that Westrom met the residency requirement, having failed to establish much semblance of residency prior to being served with our petition, I must respect the court's decision that we did not meet our burden of proof,” Klingbeil said.
“This process has been a valuable learning experience for me, and has brought to light several disparities within our election law that make it difficult for citizens to hold candidates and elected officials accountable,” Klingbeil added. “If I am so fortunate to be elected this November, I will get right to work, correcting those disparities, based on my own personal experiences in attempting to stand up for election integrity."
Three candidates are vying for the Minnesota Senate District 12 office — Westrom, Klingbeil, who listed her party affiliation as "We the People," and Kari Dorry, the DFL-endorsed candidate from Ortonville.