Brandon Sawalich, who is widely seen as the frontrunner to be the next GOP party chair, was arrested on Thursday at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport for expired license tabs. The 36-year-old senior vice president with Starkey Labs was initially charged with a gross misdemeanor for intent to escape motor vehicle tax.
But airport police almost immediately reduced the charge to a petty misdemeanor for failure to maintain current registration.
Sawalich was detained by airport police shortly after noon and released on his own recognizance, according to the arrest report. The tabs on his vehicle expired in June. Sawalich told Minnesota Public Radio that the vehicle had been in storage, and that’s why the tabs had not been renewed.
Sawalich is among three announced candidates for the vacant party chair post. On Thursday night former state Rep. Mike Osskopp announced via Twitter that he also plans to seek the post. Todd McIntyre, who is not well known in GOP activists circles, is also in the contest. Sawalich has been endorsed by House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Sen. David Hann, the influential chair of the Health and Human Services Committee.
Terry McCall, chair of the GOP in the Second Congressional District, told PIM on Thursday that he was still considering a bid.
Sawalich, however, is apparently reconsidering his candidacy in light of the arrest. “I don’t want this to be a distraction,” he told MPR.