The Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor party chair has warned state Sen. Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, to stop using language that suggests he has the party's official backing after he lost the DFL Senate District 7 endorsement in May.

In a Wednesday letter, DFL Chairman Ken Martin requested Simonson "cease and desist the manner in which you reference your affiliation with the 'DFL' or 'Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party' in your campaign materials, including Facebook posts and campaign literature" after Simonson wrote on Facebook that "it comes as no surprise that labor and local DFL organizations are standing by Senator Simonson."

A screenshot of the state Sen. Erik Simonson Facebook advertisement the DFL Party said misrepresented its endorsement of Simonson's challenger Jen McEwen.
A screenshot of the state Sen. Erik Simonson Facebook advertisement the DFL Party said misrepresented its endorsement of Simonson's challenger Jen McEwen.

Attorney Jen McEwen won the DFL's Senate District 7 endorsement with 70% of the delegates voting for her over the 29% voting for incumbent Simonson, who recently took a job at Lake Superior College. The two will face off in an Aug. 11 primary.

In an interview with the News Tribune on Thursday, Simonson said he respects Martin and that his campaign "polished (the Facebook post) up a little bit so there should be no more confusion."

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"I don't think we put anything in any of the materials that was intentionally misleading," Simonson said, noting that he is the assistant minority leader of the Senate DFL Caucus, which is made up of other elected DFL state senators, and that he "has the support of some DFL leaders."

"I have a lot of support within the party, even though we don't have a party endorsement," Simonson said.

The DFL's Senate District 7 Facebook page responded on Facebook to Martin's letter, and said Simonson's recent paid advertisement "falsely implied that he had our endorsement, when in fact, he did not."

Bridget Holcomb, McEwen's campaign manager, responded to Martin's letter in an emailed statement to the News Tribune on Thursday.

"Local democrats spoke loudly and clearly when they endorsed Jen McEwen with over 70 percent of the delegate vote," Holcomb said. "While it must be difficult for Sen. Simonson to have lost the support of local democrats, it's important that we all play by the rules."

Republican Donna Bergstrom is running for Senate District 7 for the second time after losing to Simonson in the 2016 general election.

Senate District 7 includes most of Duluth and has been held by Simonson since 2017.