In the wake of a scandal that led a Minnesota Democrat to suddenly suspend his campaign for reelection, the state Supreme Court says political parties can put new candidates on the ballot after the primary election if an originally endorsed candidate properly withdraws from a race.
On Wednesday the court released its opinion on the case, originally brought by the DFL Party after Rep. Kerry Gauthier, DFL-Duluth, suspended his campaign for reelection. News broke in August that Gauthier had been investigated for having oral sex with a 17-year-old male at a public rest stop. Gauthier initially said he planned to run for reelection, but ultimately stepped aside after pressure from party leaders. Local Democrats revoked his endorsement shortly afterward and backed a new candidate, union leader Erik Simonson.
But the St. Louis County auditor’s office refused to accept both Gauthier’s affidavit of withdrawal and Simonson’s affidavit of candidacy. DFL Secretary of State Mark Ritchie‘s office had repeatedly said that state laws do not allow candidates (except candidates running for constitutional offices) to withdraw from any race after a two-day window following the filing deadline in June.
The Supreme Court, however, found that state laws on the matter are “ambiguous,” according to the opinion.
“Respondents’ proposed interpretation has the potential to lead to an absurd result,” the opinion read. “There are many reasons why a candidate might withdraw from an election, other than death.”
The ruling will allow state parties to put new candidates on the ballot after a primary election if their originally backed candidate files the proper paperwork to withdraw from a given race. Democrats say they want to clarify the provision in state law after the Gauthier case and another this fall in which a Rochester City Council member died before the election but still won the race.
Simonson handily won election to Gauthier’s old House District 7B seat in Duluth.
Go here for the full opinion.