The first ballots went out Friday listing a Duluth state lawmaker who tried to withdraw from his re-election race after word spread that he had a sexual encounter with a boy.
Democrats said they plan to conduct a Duluth write-in race for the Minnesota House seat as the state Supreme Court remained silent about whether it would consider a petition seeking to replace Rep. Kerry Gauthier’s name on the Nov. 6 ballot.
“Until we hear the from the Minnesota Supreme Court, we will continue to proceed as planned with the write-in campaign for DFL-endorsed candidate Erik Simonson,” said party spokeswoman Kate Monson. “Simonson is a proven leader who is working hard to earn the support of the people of Duluth, and we are confident that he can succeed in November regardless of the outcome of our petition.”
Write-in candidates generally have a tougher time winning an election than those whose names on printed on the ballot.
Gauthier sought to withdraw from the race after news surfaced of a July rest stop sexual encounter with a 17-year-old boy. But it was far past the candidate withdrawal deadline state law establishes.
St. Louis County Auditor Don Dicklich said his office waited as long as possible for the court decision before mailing the first ballots Friday. His office sent out overseas absentee ballots to meet state and federal deadlines, including 28 ballots in District 7B.
Democratic-Farmer-Laborites in District 7B revoked Gauthier’s endorsement during a Sept. 8 convention and nominated Simonson, who is filed as a write-in candidate. Since the deadline has passed, court action was Simonson’s only hope to be listed alongside Republican candidate Travis Silvers.
Duluth City Councilor Jay Fosle also has filed as a write-in candidate.
On Sept. 14, Simonson and Minnesota Democrats asked the Supreme Court to order the new candidate’s name be printed on the ballot.
“Voters in Minnesota House District 7B should have the same right as every Minnesotan: to vote using a ballot which includes the major party candidates actually running for office,” the party told the court’s justices
Generally, the high court would announce that it will consider a case, then ask for written paperwork from both sides before inviting the attorneys to make oral arguments. None of that happened by Friday’s deadline and court officials will not comment on the petition, giving no indication whether action still is possible.
Duluth News Tribune reporters John Myers and Brandon Stahl contributed to this story.