Gauthier's Minnesota House seat hot topic
As Rep. Kerry Gauthier ponders his political future, the field of candidates vying to replace him is growing more crowded. Another write-in candidate will officially jump into the District 7B race for the Minnesota House of Representatives today....
As Rep. Kerry Gauthier ponders his political future, the field of candidates vying to replace him is growing more crowded.
Another write-in candidate will officially jump into the District 7B race for the Minnesota House of Representatives today. Erik Simonson, an assistant fire chief with the Duluth Fire Department, confirmed Monday that he plans to launch his campaign for office during an 11 a.m. news conference at the Lake Superior Zoo.
"It's important for the district to move forward with a representative who will be able to focus on the issues, work with others and do what's best for Duluth," Simonson said.
Simonson will become the third candidate to offer himself as an alternative to Gauthier, who has recently come under fire after a report of an alleged sexual rendezvous with a 17-year-old boy was made public.
Also running for Gauthier's seat are Travis Silvers, the Republican endorsee, and Duluth City Councilor Jay Fosle, who is running with no party affiliation.
Daniel Fanning, who ran as a DFL candidate in the 8th Congressional District race before dropping out earlier this year, also has been approached about running for the state house seat.
Fanning said he'd be willing to run should his party ask him.
"As a DFLer, I hope our party will act quickly to unite behind one strong, progressive candidate," he wrote in a statement to the News Tribune. "There are a number of us who are willing and interested in stepping up to serve our district."
He said he'll be patient as the DFL figures out the best way to promote a candidate other than Gauthier.
Simonson has never before run for public office but was elected to serve as local president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 101.
Although Simonson said he has long considered seeking a House seat, for the last decade he has lived in the same district as Rep. Mary Murphy, DFL-Hermantown, now in her 18th term. As a result of redistricting earlier this year, Simonson is now a resident of District 7B.
Still, Simonson doesn't underestimate the challenge he faces as a write-in candidate.
"It's going to take a huge push, and we have only 77 days to get it done," Simonson said. "Name recognition will be key, and I'm going to have to work hard to get my name out there."
With the state primary election now over, Gauthier's name will remain on the ballot even if he drops out of the race, according to Pat Turgeon, a spokeswoman for the Minnesota secretary of state's office. Only one challenger's name -- Travis Silvers -- will appear opposite Gauthier's on the 7B ballot.
A growing field of write-in candidates could make the race confusing for voters, according to Fosle. But he joked that his name was shorter and easier to remember than Simonson's.
Fosle stressed that he was running as a free agent, beholden to no special interests.
"I'm running for the citizens. Period," he said. "I would represent them the same way as I have on the City Council. I want to be a voice for the people."
Colleen Nardone, 8th Congressional District DFL associate chairwoman, said the DFL Party could consider endorsing a different candidate if Gauthier resigned from his District 7B seat, which Nardone encouraged him to do.
Gauthier's Republican opponent suggested the recent proliferation of candidates in the race could be a positive development.
"I welcome the competition. The more choices people have, the better," said Silvers of Simonson's pending entry into the District 7B race.
When asked about the flurry of new candidates joining the race, Silvers said: "I just wonder if they're taking advantage of the situation, with someone's political downfall, or if they have the best interests of the citizens of Duluth and Minnesota at heart."