Minnesota Supreme Court explains its decision on late changes to 7B ballot | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

The Minnesota Supreme Court cited the “paramount interests of voters” Wednesday as the rationale for its decision to allow Democrats to replace Rep. Kerry Gauthier’s name on ballots for the House District 7B election last month.

Six weeks before the election, the court ruled that Gauthier, DFL-Duluth, could pull his name from the ballot in the wake of a rest stop sex scandal and that the party could replace his name with its new endorsed candidate, assistant Duluth fire chief Erik Simonson. At the time, the court offered no explanation for the ruling.

In its opinion Wednesday, the court said it allowed the change because it served “the paramount interests of voters, who are entitled to a ballot that accurately identifies the candidates actually running for office.”

The court found that St. Louis County Auditor Don Dicklich and Minnesota Secretary of State Mark Ritchie erred in rejecting both Gauthier’s affidavit of withdrawal from the race and Simonson’s affidavit of candidacy. Simonson and DFL Chairman Ken Martin challenged that decision, resulting in the Supreme Court ruling on Sept. 25.

Simonson went on to win the election in November, handily defeating Travis Silvers, the Republican nominee, and Duluth City Councilor Jay Fosle, who mounted a write-in campaign after the court rejected his attempt to put his name on the ballot. No write-in candidate has ever been elected to the Minnesota Legislature, and Fosle said his inability to win a place on the ballot “absolutely made a difference” in the election’s outcome.

Simonson did not respond to messages left on his cell phone Wednesday.

The Supreme Court made a distinction between Fosle’s and Simonson’s requests to have their names appear on the ballot. It noted that the DFL selected Simonson to run as its endorsed candidate after a special nominating convention organized after Gauthier announced that he was withdrawing.

Fosle lacked any endorsement.

Fosle argued that if Simonson’s name was to be printed on the ballot, there should be a spot for him, too, and asked in a petition filed Sept. 28 to be identified as “either an Independent or with no party affiliation.”

But the court wrote in its decision that “Fosle presents no evidence that he has been endorsed by the Independence Party, which has endorsed candidates in several other legislative races during this election cycle.” It concluded that listing him as an “Independent” would confuse and possibly mislead voters.

As for Fosle possibly running with no party affiliation, the court cited state statute requiring “that candidates for partisan office who do not seek the nomination of a major party be nominated by petition.” That petition — signed either by 10 percent of eligible voters or 500 residents of the district —would have needed to be submitted by June for a November election.

Fosle said Wednesday he is still considering whether to pursue further legal recourse. He said he is content to continue to serve on the Duluth City Council but has been encouraged by others to file a lawsuit. Fosle described his motivation for considering a suit not as a case of “sour grapes” but as a matter of fighting for principles.

“I’d hate to see anyone else have to go through the BS I did,” he said.

Ritchie issued a statement thanking the Supreme Court for issuing its decision before the legislative session.

“I expect to discuss the decision with local election officials, the Legislature and Governor in (an) effort to clarify elections law pertaining to the withdrawal and replacement of legislative candidates,” Ritchie said.

Dicklich said late changes to the ballot come with additional costs and risks. He pointed out that St. Louis County paid $22,000 to reprint ballots for House District 7B. And Dicklich said he waited until the last moment to proceed with printing the ballots this year, as he waited for the court to rule on Fosle’s request to be listed, as well.

The court handed down its decision not to include Fosle’s name on Oct. 10.

That was too close for comfort, in Dicklich’s eyes.

He said the ruling also seems to benefit candidates endorsed by parties over other late entrants.

“This would be the new reality only for major-party candidates,” he said. “I think a lot of people will ask if the deck is stacked in someone’s favor.”

DFL Chairman Martin disagreed with Dicklich’s suggestion that the Supreme Court justices’ decision somehow favored large parties above others.

“They looked at statutes and very clearly said it was within our prerogative and our power as a state party to nominate a replacement candidate in the event that our nominee would withdraw from the ballot,” he said. “They affirmed the letter of the law.”

If anything, Martin said, the court came down on the side of the voting public.

“We knew that Kerry Gauthier had withdrawn his name and wasn’t able to serve anymore in the Legislature for a variety of reasons. At the end of the day, looking at this ruling confirms the belief we’ve held all along that it would be unfair to the voters of 7B if they weren’t allowed to pick between the nominees of the parties,” Martin said.

via Minnesota Supreme Court explains its decision on late changes to 7B ballot | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota.

Justice Stras recused himself from Duluth ballot case argued by his campaign co-chair | Politics in Minnesota

One peculiarity of the Minnesota Supreme Court’s decision to remove Rep. Kerry Gauthier’s name from next month’s general election ballot was that Justice David Stras opted not to participate in the case.

The highly plausible word on the street is that Straus had a conflict because one of his election campaign co-chairs was active in the making the case to remove Gauthier on behalf of the DFL Party. The party successfully sought to get Gauthier, DFL-Duluth, off the ballot after police investigated him for having a sexual encounter with a 17-year-old male at a Duluth area rest stop. Charlie Nauen, a DFLer and partner at Minneapolis-based law firm Lockridge Grindal Nauen, represented the DFL. Nauen is also a co-chairman of Stras’s reelection campaign.

Stras’ office referred a call seeking comment to the Supreme Court commissioner’s office. The person who answered the phone in the commissioner’s office explained that justices aren’t required to provide an explanation for why they don’t participate in a case. Nauen said he’s unaware of any reason that Stras didn’t take part in the case.

Hamline University professor David Schultz said the campaign connection is grounds for Stras to recuse himself from the case.

“I think it’s a straight-out point of appearance of conflict of interest, even though there probably is no financial conflict of interest whatsoever,” Schultz said. “The general judicial cannons are going to say, take any action that is appropriate to mitigate conflict of interest. And you could make the argument here that it is.”

Stras, who was appointed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty, is seeking election to the non-partisan high court for the first time. He’s being challenged by Tim Tingelstad and Allan Nelson.

Judging from political biographies, it would appear that Nauen and Stras come from different political worlds, with the former representing the DFL Party and the latter an appointee of the Republican Pawlenty with a background in the arch-conservative Federalist Society. Stras, however, appears to enjoy bipartisan support. His campaign website lists supporters including former DFL Party Chair Brian Melendez and Ramsey County Attorney John Choi.

Besides Nauen, Stras has three other co-chairs: Chuck Weber of Faegre Baker Daniels, Ron Schutz of Robbins, Kaplan and Robin Wolpert of 3M. Schutz was Pawlenty’s chairman of the Commission on Judicial Selection.

In staying out of the case, Stras did avoid getting criticism from his own party. That wasn’t the case for Chief Justice Lorie Skjerven Gildea, who was also appointed by Pawlenty. After the order signed by Gildea was issued, Republican Party Chairman Pat Shortridge issued a press release saying the decision was “yet another case of judicial overreach and making things up out of thin air where no authority exists in statute.”

via Justice Stras recused himself from Duluth ballot case argued by his campaign co-chair | Politics in Minnesota.

Erik Simonson and Kerry Gauthier | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

Simonson’s (left) name will replace Gauthier’s (right) on the ballot in November. (Simonson photo courtesy of Erik Simonson; Gauthier photo 2009 file / News Tribune)

Read the article: Minnesota Supreme Court rules that Simonson can replace Gauthier on ballot

via Erik Simonson and Kerry Gauthier | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota.

Court orders Gauthier name replaced on ballot | The Jamestown Sun | Jamestown, North Dakota

ST. PAUL – The Minnesota Supreme Court late this afternoon ordered Rep. Kerry Gauthier’s name to be replaced on Duluth ballots.

The order written by Chief Justice Lori S. Gildea said that Erik Simonson’s name replace Gauthier.

The ruling grants a request filed by Simonson and the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party after Gauthier announced he would end his re-election campaign after a rest-stop sex encounter with a 17-year-old boy earlier this summer was revealed.

House District 7B Democrats revoked their earlier endorsement of Gauthier, replacing it with a Simonson endorsement. The state deadline for withdrawing from a race long since has passed, but Gildea ordered St. Louis County Auditor Don Dicklich to accept Gauthier’s withdrawal.

Dicklich’s office began to mail out absentee ballots Friday, as state law requires, with Gauthier’s name.

Secretary of State Mark Ritchie and Dicklich filed paperwork with the high court saying they have no legal authority to change candidates on the ballot at this late date.

While memorandum were presented to the court, neither side requested oral arguments.

Gildea said she would follow up with a more detailed reasoning for the ruling, but issued the ruling quickly to keep the election process moving ahead.

“As we have said, our purpose in filing this petition was to ensure a fair election for the voters in District 7B,” DFL Chairman Ken Martin said. “We are glad to learn that the Minnesota Supreme Court agrees that Duluth voters should have a chance to choose between the endorsed candidates of the major parties — a choice that Minnesotans in every other district in the state will have on Election Day.”

Simonson had begun a write-in campaign, but sought to be on the ballot because write-in candidates seldom win.

via Court orders Gauthier name replaced on ballot | The Jamestown Sun | Jamestown, North Dakota.

Minnesota Supreme Court rules that Simonson can replace Gauthier on ballot | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

ST. PAUL — Duluth Democrats are breathing a sigh of relief after the Minnesota Supreme Court ordered state Rep. Kerry Gauthier’s name replaced on the Nov. 6 ballot.

Tuesday’s order means Erik Simonson will not be forced to run as a write-in candidate, a change that enhances his chances in a state House race with a Republican and a write-in candidate. Few write-in Minnesota candidates have won races against candidates whose names were on the ballot.

Simonson, who had begun a write-in campaign complete with signs around House District 7B, welcomed Tuesday’s ballot decision, saying, “It’s a good day.”

Simonson will face Republican Travis Silvers, whose name will be on the ballot, and Duluth City Councilor Jay Fosle, who is running a write-in campaign.

Silvers said Tuesday’s ruling was “disappointing.”

“It’s legislating from the bench and rewriting the laws,” Silvers said. “I think (the ruling) highlights the need for change even more.”

Fosle said anger over the last-minute ruling could turn things in his favor.

“This action by the Supreme Court should send a strong message to all the citizens as to how much our government is broken,” Fosle said in a statement. “They cannot even stick to their own state statutes.”

He said there’s probably no time to file a protest over the ruling and he will focus on continuing his write-in campaign.

“I’m not a quitter,” he said. “When I get in campaign mode, no one works harder.”

He said he thinks the electorate is well aware of the unusual circumstances of the race after news broke about Gauthier and his eventual departure from the race. Now, with Simonson on the ballot, he will run alone as a write-in.

“I want to take the high road,” Fosle said. “I just wish we both had to play the game fair.”

Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party leaders and Simonson said they brought the legal action to ensure that voters understood who actually is running.

“Our first priority throughout this process has been ensuring a fair election for the people of District 7B in Duluth,” House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, said.

Thissen and DFL Chairman Ken Martin said they are confident Simonson will win.

“We are glad to learn that the Minnesota Supreme Court agrees that Duluth voters should have a chance to choose between the endorsed candidates of the major parties — a choice that Minnesotans in every other district in the state will have on Election Day,” Martin said.

The high court order written by Chief Justice Lori S. Gildea said that Simonson’s name should replace Gauthier’s. In the interest of time, she said that she filed the order Tuesday but delayed an explanation of the ruling.

The ruling grants a request filed by Simonson and the DFL Party when Gauthier announced he would end his re-election campaign after a rest-stop sex encounter with a 17-year-old male earlier this summer was revealed.

House District 7B Democrats revoked their earlier endorsement of Gauthier, replacing it with a Simonson endorsement. The state deadline for withdrawing from a race passed long ago, but Gildea ordered St. Louis County Auditor Don Dicklich to accept Gauthier’s withdrawal and print new ballots with Simonson’s name.

Dicklich’s office began to mail out absentee ballots Friday, as state law requires, with Gauthier’s name.

John Kavanagh of Secretary of State Mark Ritchie’s office Tuesday night said details of the Supreme Court order remain to be worked out, including what happens to any absentee votes already cast in the race. In 2002, the courts allowed some voters to cast new ballots after U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone died in a plane crash days before the election.

Dicklich said he will try to get new ballots to those already sent previous ones, but said he is not sure what to do about voters who have gone to Duluth City Hall to vote absentee.

“We need to talk to the city about that,” he said.

To get the new ballots out quickly, elections officials may use what the state calls “unofficial ballots” with Simonson’s name until Dicklich’s office can provide official documents that meet all state standards, Kavanagh said.

About 30,000 ballots with Gauthier’s name have been printed, with 28 mailed to overseas voters, Dicklich said.

“We waited as long as we could,” he said. “I’m disappointed it took (the court) so long to come up with this ruling.”

Dicklich said printing new ballots and reprogramming voting machines with Simonson’s name on it will cost taxpayers $20,000 to $22,000.

Simonson said it would have made no sense to issue ballots bearing Gauthier’s name as the DFL-endorsed candidate after he officially dropped out of the race.

He said the amended ballots will better serve the public good because “it shows people the choice they actually have.”

Now that his name will appear on the ballot, Simonson said: “We’re going to shift our strategy. We can move away from education. It will give us more of an opportunity to focus on the issues.”

via Minnesota Supreme Court rules that Simonson can replace Gauthier on ballot | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota.

Link

Court allows DFL candidate switch on ballot in Duluth | Capitol View | Minnesota Public Radio

Court allows DFL candidate switch on ballot in Duluth

Posted at 4:23 PM on September 25, 2012 by Tim Pugmire (0 Comments)

Filed under: Campaign 2012: Minn. House Races

The Minnesota Supreme Court has granted a request from the DFL party to make a name change on the November ballot in House District 7B.

An order issued today directs the St. Louis County auditor to remove the name of incumbent Rep. Kerry Gauthier, DFL-Duluth, and to add the name of Erik Simonson, the DFL endorsed candidate. Gauthier ended his re-election bid last month following news reports that he had a sexual encounter with a 17-year-old boy. Simonson and the DFL had been poised for a write-in campaign if necessary.

In a new release, DFL Chair Ken Martin praised the court ruling.

“Our purpose in filing this petition was to ensuring a fair election for the voters in District 7B,” Martin wrote. “We are glad to learn that the Minnesota Supreme Court agrees that Duluth voters should have a chance to choose between the endorsed candidates of the major parties — a choice that Minnesotans in every other district in the state will have on Election Day.”

Republican Travis Silvers is the Republican candidate in House District 7B. Duluth City Councilor Jay Fosle is running a write-in campaign without party affiliation.

DFL Order – Grant

via Court allows DFL candidate switch on ballot in Duluth | Capitol View | Minnesota Public Radio.

Minn. Supreme Court removes Gauthier from ballot | Minnesota Public Radio News

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota Democrats have gotten a lifeline in their efforts to hang on to a Duluth-area legislative seat after a disgraced Democratic lawmaker quit his re-election bid.

The Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday granted the party’s request to have Rep. Kerry Gauthier’s name scrubbed from the ballot. He dropped out of a re-election race for a Duluth seat after having a sexual encounter with a 17-year-old boy.

The ruling is a boost to Democrats, who feared they would have to resort to a write-in effort to preserve a reliable seat. Democrats can ill-afford to lose a safe seat in their bid to retake the Minnesota House majority.

Gauthier will be replaced by Erik Simonson, a Duluth assistant fire chief. He faces Republican Travis Silvers.

via Minn. Supreme Court removes Gauthier from ballot | Minnesota Public Radio News.

Gauthier’s name stays on absentee ballot because of deadline | MinnPost

State Rep. Kerry Gauthier, who tried to withdraw from his re-election bid after he was stopped by police at a rest stop after a sexual encounter with a 17-year-old boy, remains on the absentee ballot that is being distributed already in Duluth.

Gauthier and the DFL Party had asked the state Supreme Court to replace him on the ballot with the newly DFL-endorsed candidate, Erik Simonson.

But no word came from the court, so St. Louis County Auditor Don Dicklich went ahead with printing the absentee ballots, with Gauthier as the candidate, says the Fargo Forum.

The paper said officials waited until the last minute but had to send out overseas absentee ballots on Friday to meet state and federal deadlines.

So Simonson will continue to run his write-in campaign against Republican candidate Travis Silvers.

Also running a write-in campaign is Duluth City Council Member Jay Fosle.

via Gauthier’s name stays on absentee ballot because of deadline | MinnPost.

Ballots sent with Gauthier’s name after Minnesota Supreme Court remains silent | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota

ST. PAUL — Ballots went out Friday listing a Duluth lawmaker who tried to withdraw from re-election after revelations that he had a sexual encounter with a teenager.

Minnesota Democrats and write-in House candidate Erik Simonson sued the St. Louis County auditor and the Minnesota Secretary of State last week to try to get Simonson’s name on the ballot and current Rep. Kerry Gauthier’s name dropped.

However, the state Supreme Court has remained silent on whether it would consider the petition.

Democrats said they will continue to conduct a write-in campaign for Simonson.

“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 are printed on the ballot. In its search of state election history, the Minnesota Legislative Reference Library said it found no record of a successful write-in candidate for state Legislature.

Gauthier sought to withdraw from the race after news surfaced of a July rest stop sexual encounter with a 17-year-old male. 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, he said.

DFLers in District 7B revoked Gauthier’s endorsement during a Sept. 8 convention and nominated Simonson, who 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 on whether action still is possible.

via Ballots sent with Gauthier’s name after Minnesota Supreme Court remains silent | Duluth News Tribune | Duluth, Minnesota.