Duluth assistant fire chief and union leader Erik Simonson won the backing of area Democrats over the weekend as the party attempts to execute what would likely be the first successful write-in campaign for the Legislature in Minnesota history.
Simonson won the House District 7B DFL endorsement on the first ballot on Saturday, according to the Duluth News Tribune. On the day of the convention, Simonson faced a challenge from previously unannounced contender Julene Boe, executive director of the St. Louis River Alliance, who told the paper that she was encouraged to run by Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon. Simonson won the endorsement 33-21 over Boe. After Simonson locked up the endorsement, Boe said she would honor the party’s vote and threw her support behind Simonson, whose campaign encountered turbulence in the week prior to the endorsement after the Duluth News Tribune reported that his 20-year-old daughter from a previous marriage says her father abandoned her by declining to exercise his visitation rights while she was growing up.
Simonson’s special endorsement comes after the first-term incumbent DFL Rep. Kerry Gauthier, suspended his campaign after news broke that he had engaged in oral sex with a 17-year-old male at a public rest stop. But because of a decades-old quirk in state law, it appears DFLers cannot get Gauthier’s name off the ballot.
That means Simonson’s campaign will likely have to be waged as a write in effort — according to the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library, no legislative candidate has won via a write-in campaign for at least 30 years.
Simonson will go up against GOP-endorsed candidate Travis Silvers (whose name will appear on the ballot) and Duluth City Councilor Jay Fosle, who has said he will run a write-in campaign as an independent candidate.