Minnesota State Senate Candidate Criticized for 'Vote With Bullets' Comments

A Republican-backed candidate for the Minnesota Senate has been criticized by Democrats after footage showed him talking about the need for “voting with the ballot before we have to vote with bullets.”

The footage of Stephen Lowell, who is running for Senate District 52, was captured on July 30 at the Dakota County Patriots Summer Block Party in Rosemount. It was originally posted to Lowell’s Facebook page after the event, but didn’t receive widespread attention until it was posted to Twitter by journalist Aaron Rupar on August 18.

In the video, Lowell criticizes lockdowns in place during the pandemic and urges people not to forget the “damage” done to the district. “We need to grow our teeth back, fast,” Lowell says. “So, part of those teeth, in this particular set of terms, is voting with the ballot before we have to vote with bullets.

“Because at the end of the day, when people don’t believe that their elections are stable, they don’t believe that police will protect them, they stop using the democratic, of any kind, method.”

He goes on to say, "People stop using that particular method when it looks like it’s too corrupt to work. If it’s too corrupt to work, nobody wants to participate. Who wants to participate in a game that seems like you’re just going to lose it? And so we have to bring back that faith, and we have to come out and vote.

“We have to vote just like they’re throwing Molotovs in Uptown. We have to vote just like they burned down buildings for four weeks straight,” Lowell says, and says he “strapped on a rifle” to protect a tobacco business during violent protests following the death of George Floyd in 2020.

The comments were criticized by the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (DFL), who said it amounted to “a Republican-backed candidate threatening to murder his political opponents.”

After the video was widely shared online, Lowell retweeted the footage posted by journalist Aaron Rupar and said: “Absolutely. If you’re honest (not that I expect it) you’ll note that in countries where they cannot agree on elections the populace tends to devolve into violence. Do you not support free and fair elections?”

Lowell is running against Democratic state Senator Jim Carlson, who was first elected in 2006. Credit: Stephen for Senate via Storyful

Video transcript

STEPHEN LOWELL: If you go to like my Facebook page campaign, the banner has like burning Minneapolis and says, never forget on top. Because at the end of the day, you're doomed to endure what you're willing to-- what you're willing to put up with. So if you're willing to accept it, you're doomed to endure it. You're just getting-- it's going to keep happening. And so we can't forget.

And I know it feels great after the lockdown to get out and feel normal and feel like, hey, we're out doing things. I don't feel like there's a squad's going to pull up and say, hey, why are you being free? Stop that. Like you don't have any of those kinds of fears. It feels easy to get back to normal.

You got to remember. You got to never, ever, ever forget the kind of damage to the viceroy up at the house did to this nice patch of land, small town Minnesota, and we need to grow our teeth back. Fast. So part of those teeth in this particular set of terms is voting with the ballot before we have to vote with bullets. Because at the end of the day, when people don't believe that their elections are stable, they don't believe the police will protect them, they stop using the Democratic of any kind of method. We are a democratically elected constitutional republic, for anybody confused with that.

But people stop using the particular method when it looks like it's too corrupt to work. If it's too corrupt to work, nobody wants to participate. Who wants to participate in the game that seems like you're going to lose it? And so we have to bring back that faith, and we have to come out and vote. We have to vote just like they're throwing Molotovs up in uptown. We have to vote just like they burn down buildings for like four weeks straight. We have to vote as hard as they went out and did that.

In 2020 I was on the ground in the riots. In 2020 I strapped on plates and a rifle and I stood in front of a nice quiet tobacco shop right across from the third precinct. I stood in front, and I watched three young men from a Middle Eastern family, I think they were from Pakistan, running a family business, trying to live the American dream, with machetes and swords trying to keep the looters and the criminals away. It was one of the most saddening things I'd ever seen.

They were very thankful when me and some gents that I knew stood up and made sure nobody ransacked their livelihood. Or harmed them. Run around with lead pipes and framing hands. It was an absolute travesty and it cannot happen again. The only way to prevent that is cleaning house. So we got to reach in there with a full arm, and we got to reject it with a full throat. We cannot watch it happen again.


So I'll tell you what, the Libertarians like to say taxation of-- taxation is theft, and I'm a huge fan of saying that libertarians only exist because the GOP dropped the ball, at heart. And generally speaking, they called a surplus. It was downright robbery. I'm not sorry. Just because as a Minnesotan I want to say sorry somewhere in there. It's almost like a semi Canadian thing. It's weird, I know.

But either way, like it's disgusting that they call it a surplus when they know damn well they've been robbing us for seven years. A surplus for seven years running. That means we just took a bunch from you at gunpoint and we-- turns out we didn't need it. Also we're not giving it back.

- Yeah.

- Inexcusable. There is no excuse to the fact that it is cheaper, it is cheaper, to hand a violent criminal with a gun in your face your wallet than it is to pull your weapon and defend yourself. In the state of Minnesota, that's an absolute travesty. It's inexcusable. If somebody is going to threaten your life, you should have every, every liberty to stand and deliver, regardless if there's a chance. That's absolutely ridiculous.


Strong Second Amendment supporter. Somebody asked me how I feel about AK-57s at the booth at FunFest. That was an amazing conversation. I said, you should have open bolt machine guns in the back of your truck. And they said, oh my God, that's crazy. I said, well, what's stopping the guys up in Northeast from using those every night? Because they've been spraying lead the last four months.

You can hear fully automatic fire arms, shots fired three days a week, and I haven't seen an ATF agent call in anywhere near the Northeast. So it looks like they kind of fell off the wagon. So at that point, all we're really doing is making sure that criminals get a whole bunch of fully automatic weapons, and we're stuck with pea shooters and a hope. I'm sorry, but that only stops hopes and dreams, guys, that doesn't do anything. So we got to clean this place from the bottom to the top. Rip it out clean and put new people in there who can do that job, and grass roots candidates.

I had no plans to run for this office. I'll be straight up with you right now. I just want to get involved because I saw this ship going down. And unlike many people, I was not interested in running to the part underwater. So I ran to the other end, and I was like, guys, we have a problem, and they're like, yeah, we know. We talked. And I sold my Senate committee meeting and nobody was there to run.

And I had people surrounding me, shoving my chair, and kicking my seat and saying you need to run. And so when a room with 200 people says, you better go out and fight this dragon, you don't say no. So here I am. And I'm more than happy to lay waste to whatever comes my way. I'm happy to forge alliances and make bitter enemies. I don't care, because we got to get this legislation through, we got to get these laws stricken. Because every single one of those laws is an excuse to shove a loaded gun in your face.

The state has no right. I thought we had that out in 1776. But here we are, a country trying to be British again. It makes me swallow reflexively. Anyhow, thank you all kind folks for being here. I greatly appreciate it. Once again, running at 20% of Senate District 52. Here to put my incumbent back to the box. He doesn't care about your safety. He doesn't care about your freedom, either. Bring us something else you can take from me and sell back later. God bless America.