Despite a slim chance of success, Minnesota Democrats are moving forward with a petition to get DFL Rep. Kerry Gauthier off the November ballot.
Gauthier, a first-term House member from Duluth, is no longer campaigning for reelection after he made headlines for having oral sex with a 17-year-old at a public rest stop. Local DFL activists have done what they can to rectify the messy situation — they stripped Gauthier’s endorsement at a recent meeting and instead backed Duluth assistant fire chief Erik Simonson for his House District 7B seat. But a decades old provision in state law appears to allow no means of getting his name off the ballot after a two-day window in June. Without Guathier’s removal from the ballot, Simonson will have to wage a notoriously difficult write-in campaign.
DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said Friday that the party is petitioning the Minnesota Supreme Court to challenge the St. Louis County Auditor’s move to deny a withdrawal affidavit from Gauthier and a certificate of nomination for Simonson. The House DFL caucus and Simonson’s campaign are joining the party in its effort.
“Our primary concern in filing this petition is ensuring a fair election for the people of District 7B,” Martin wrote in a statement. “In every other district in the state this fall, voters will have a chance to choose among candidates who are actively campaigning and who carry the endorsement of a major political party, and it should be no different in Duluth.”
Several legal experts privately say the legal challenge is a long shot. Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s office has said there is no way around the state statute.
GOP Party Chairman Pat Shortridge responded to the move with his own statement on Friday. “The attempt by Ken Martin and the DFL to remove Kerry Gauthier’s name from the ballot should ultimately fail,” Shortridge wrote. “There is no provision in state law that allows legislative candidates to withdraw from the ballot after the primary. The DFL is once again attempting to rewrite the rules to serve their partisan political ends, an act that even Secretary of State Mark Ritchie has already rejected. The Court should uphold the law and reject it as well.”