Family drama, DFL convention charge House 7B frenzy

It’s time to check in with the Minnesota House 7B race in West Duluth. For a time it seemed that the rest stop sex scandal that claimed the candidacy of the incumbent had abated. It was to be just another typical election. You know, an historically unprecedented multiple write-in candidate affair involving a Republican and the withdrawn DFLer on the printed ballot. Yawn, right?

Well, this week the Duluth News Tribune poured some gas on the embers with a bombshell interview with the adult daughter of one of the highest profile write-in candidates, DFLer and Duluth assistant fire chief Erik Simonson. Simonson’s daughter from his first marriage said Simonson was not involved in her life, though he did pay child support. The story is littered with sad images of a broken family.

So people ask, was this story fair? Is this just a family issue spilled out into public life? Does this affect Simonson’s candidacy?

I don’t know. It’s unknowable. This race is just stone cold crazy. Simonson had been establishing himself as the favorite of many DFLers to succeed Rep. Kerry Gauthier. The other high profile write-in candidate, Duluth city councilor Jay Fosle, has now identified himself as a pure independent. Fosle’s alliance with conservatives on the Duluth council means that he will probably draw both DFL and GOP votes.

On Saturday the Duluth DFL will hold a convention to endorse a candidate. Simonson has announced that he will abide by this endorsement. So will another DFLer emerge from Simonson’s terrible news week to snatch the endorsement? Maybe.

The top prospect seems to be Daniel Fanning, a former DFL congressional candidate, Iraq war veteran and former Al Franken staffer. Fanning told the DNT and others that he is considering a run, but has not made a decision. I would expect him to announce a decision prior to Saturday’s convention.

Fanning would also be a star candidate, so long as he and Simonson both abide by the endorsement. The real variable is who shows up to the convention Saturday from among the previously elected delegates.

Waiting in the wings is Republican Travis Silvers. Silvers was to be an “also ran” in this race, but the 32-year-old is now sitting on a real opportunity to win amid the confusion here. I’ve only seem him through news reports on TV. My first impression is that he has yet to seize this opportunity.

I’ll be watching. But I won’t be predicting. Anyone who does is a fool.

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