DFL considers court action to replace Gauthier on ballot

Democrats are putting a priority on finding a candidate to replace state Rep. Kerry Gauthier of Duluth, but they also are considering asking the courts to replace the lawmaker’s name from the ballot.

“I will tell you that the focus right now … is on the process for endorsing a new DFL candidate in 7B,” said Zach Rodvold, the House DFL caucus campaign director. “All of the potential options we’re looking at for a fair election start with the local folks calling a convention and endorsing someone to be our candidate. Nothing can be done before that happens.”

Kate Monson of the state Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party said a convention is expected in early September to pick a new candidate. She did not know how many potential candidates are looking into the race.

At the same time, lawyers are checking if there is any way to remove Gauthier’s name and replace it with the new candidate.

“At this point we are still working with our legal team to explore all of the options that we have,” Monson said.

Gauthier announced Wednesday that he would not continue his re-election campaign after earlier in the day vowing to stay in the race despite revelations that he met a 17-year-old boy for sex in a Duluth-area rest stop.

Monson said party officials are working with Gauthier to see if he would back their effort to remove his name from the ballot.

The DFL goal is for one person to represent the party on the Nov. 6 ballot. If Gauthier’s name cannot be removed, the only option is a write-in campaign against Republican Travis Silvers.

“I don’t think anyone really wants multiple write-in candidates,” Monson said. “There is a real spirit of people wanting to get behind one candidate.”

While the secretary of state’s office says there is no provision to remove a legislative candidate from the ballot at this late date, DFL lawyers are looking into whether there could be a court case.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie says any changes to the statewide ballot must be made by Monday. However, a local race could be easier to change.

Democratic leaders have made no decisions about their route.

“It is a very fluid situation,” Monson said.

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