ROCHESTER, Minn. (AP) — A former legislator is the Minnesota Republican Party’s choice to run in an open secretary of state’s race, grabbing the endorsement Friday when his only rival exited the race.

Ex-Rep. Dan Severson secured the backing at the state party convention, the second time he is trying for the key state elections post. State Sen. John Howe withdrew before the result of the first ballot was announced.

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Incumbent Secretary of State Mark Ritchie, a two-term Democrat, isn’t running again. Democrats expect to settle on a candidate Saturday at the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party convention in Duluth in a race that features two sitting legislators.

Severson argues that Minnesota has a “corrupt election system” and told delegates it is “time for a conservative secretary of state.” He sought the office in 2010, but lost to Ritchie.

If elected, Severson said he would pursue a voluntary photo ID system for voters and to create a panel of county attorneys to look into complaints of illegal voting.

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Howe had warned delegates that emphasizing photo ID would cost Republicans because Democrats would frame it as voter restrictions.

“If we talk about voter ID, we are going to give this election to Democrats,” Howe said.

The secretary of state’s office has been pivotal in recent elections. It has overseen back-to-back recounts in races for U.S. Senate and governor. The office also has business registration duties.

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