Harassment scandal roils governor, MN-8 races

Yesterday, MinnPost published a bombshell story by Sam Brodey about a top Rick Nolan staffer accused of harassing women who worked in Nolan’s office.

Several women told Brodey that Nolan’s D.C. office legislative director Jim Swidirski harassed and groped them. Swidirski was allowed to resign quietly in 2015. Nolan then retained Swidirski as a campaign consultant in 2016. But when the allegations were brought to light internally, Swidirski was fired.

Swidirski no longer works for Nolan or any other campaign.

The fallout has landed on two Minnesota campaigns currently in highly competitive primary races.

Nolan’s 2016 campaign manager Joe Radinovich is one of the leading candidates for the DFL nomination to replace Nolan in Minnesota’s Eighth Congressional District.

Radinovich appears to have responded appropriately to the situation when he became aware of it. He fired Swidirski as a vendor from the Nolan campaign after learning of the allegations.

Nevertheless, Radinovich now spends valuable time explaining his role in this matter. And the term “top aide to Rick Nolan,” featured in his campaign ad, now becomes less appealing than it might have been before.

UPDATE: The women quoted in the story contacted the Duluth News Tribune to defend Radinovich. They say he was the only senior staffer to act swiftly and appropriately in their defense.

The scandal will hit Nolan hardest. He comes out of the story looking bad. Nolan is currently running for Lt. Governor on Lori Swanson’s ticket. Jeff Anderson, another top Nolan aide mentioned as being complicit in the situation in the MinnPost report, is the Swanson-Nolan campaign manager.

Swanson led the most recent published poll in the DFL governor’s race, just ahead of Tim Walz and well ahead of Erin Murphy. This scandal could change that.

UPDATE: MinnPost followed up on the story with comments from Swanson and Nolan.

And the 8th District race, already fluid and hard to figure, remains anyone’s guess.

The primary election will be Aug. 14. The next few days represent a critical time for voters to learn what happened. Campaigns must address the matter directly.


  1. This is the quote I loved in the Duluth Trib story….Radinovich said ” for all I knew, it was like, he just kind of was past his prime and they wanted someone newer and more modern in there”

    Hiding sexual harassment behind age discrimination….can’t make this stuff up. “Newer” “modern”…..whats newer or modern about good old boy BS?

  2. Gerald S says

    The women involved in the complaint have issued a statement saying that Radinovich responded appropriately to the situation, listened to their stories, and moved immediately to fire Swidirski. He is coming out looking very good on the issue, but Aaron is, of course, right that this is taking up Radinovich’s time.

  3. David Gray says

    What is interesting is that they apparently thought this wouldn’t get out.

    • Gerald S says

      They were not alone in that notion. A whole raft of Congressmen and other politicians in both parties found out, to their shock and dismay, that the rules have changed and that powerful men are much more likely to face the consequences of sexual misbehavior. Nolan is not implicated in misbehavior himself, but undoubtedly misplaced his priorities in backing his friend and longtime aid. He should withdraw from the ticket, just like Franken and a boatload of other Republican and Democratic representatives. Minnesota nice demands that he should hold the door open for Jason Lewis to leave too.

  4. Gerald S says

    The DNT now has an article up with interviews and quotes from three of the women praising Joe Radinovich and making him sound like a hero of the women’s movement. DNT has to eat its earlier article, up to and including pointing out that the GOP (read Stauber and his campaign) tried to smear Radinovich with the story.

    Meanwhile Swanson decides to double down, including having a spokesperson attack the women who are complaining. IMO not a very good idea. Watch for more, eventually leading to Nolan leaving, but bleeding Swanson in the meantime.

  5. If Radinovich and Nolan were Republicans, this would be the line of question.

    “Congressman Nolan, how can the public trust you on issues when you knowingly hire sexual harassers? And why do you hate women?”

    “Mr Radinovich, why should the citizens of the 8th district trust you when you’ve not only tolerated, but promoted sexual harassment in the past. And should the citizens feel safe when your campaign workers come to town?”

    On a more serious note, I’m surprised Swanson/Nolan is leading. I figured that Swanson and Walz would split the more moderate DFL vote and Murphy would run away with it.

    • Actually, the news story for Radinovich is that he courageously (at the risk of his job, according to the women involved) moved to fire the offender as soon as he became aware of the problem. All three of the women who complained to the MNPost have praised him effusively.

      So if Radinovich were a Republican, the Fox News story would be, “Mr. Radinovich, how can white men everywhere trust you to protect us when you allowed the word of mere women to cause you to fire an employee with a long history of being part of Nolan’s inner circle? Where is the loyalty? Where is the old boy solidarity? Where is your sense of white male privilege?” 😉

      • I haven’t watched cable news in years. But it’s Democrats that are obsessed with race, gender, etc so I highly doubt such a question would be asked on a channel that has a reputation for leaning to the right.

        • Gerald S says

          Unfortunately, the trope that white males are being betrayed and persecuted in this country is a very common comment on Fox and elsewhere in the conservative media. Conservatives are just as “obsessed” with race and gender as Democrats, but it is with the notion that it is whites who are suffering from being discriminated against in favor of minorities, and men being discriminated against in favor of women, and that the “culture” of the United States is being destroyed by non-whites and foreigners. Right wingers said all that right here on this blog.

          • That’s hilarious that you think that Democrats aren’t hypersensitive about race and gender. It’s the defense Democrats always go to when they’re losing an argument. “Well, you only think that way because you’re white” or ” You only think that way because you’re a male”, etc. Most people these days just roll their eyes at these attacks, as Democrats have tried to paint every Republican in my lifetime as racist or anti-women.

          • The biggest recent illustration of hypersensitivity of the right about race and gender are the comment by Jason Lewis now getting heavy publicity. As a popular right wing media personality and then as a congressman, he typifies the standard right wing complaints that women and people of color are engaged in a war on white males that conservatives see as a major problem in the US.

          • Gerald S says

            Also, I am not saying that Democrats are not “hypersensitive” about race and gender. I am saying that conservatives are just as hypersensitive — just in the opposite way — and it is amusing and revealing that you don’t see that. Conservatives see white males as under attack, and, as Jason Lewis, many Fox News personalities, and others in the right wing media have shown, frequently attack, often viciously, people who express the idea that the US has not reached an ideal in its handling of issues of race and gender, that the status quo is not perfection, or who criticize specific instances of evidence of racial, ethnic, or gender based abuse. The whole Nolan thing is just part of this argument.

    • David Gray says

      It is certainly true that the feeding frenzy would be greater if a Republican was involved however, unlike the Franken case, neither of the candidates involved actually did anything predatory themselves. I hold Radinovich’s betrayal of his constituents against him when he was in the state legislature but I can’t ding either he or even Nolan that much for this series of events.

      • Nor do I. I don’t know the exact circumstances of what happened with these recent allegations (I take everything I read from both sides with a grain of salt). I can just imagine the feeding frenzy this would be if it were a Republican in a tight race.

      • Gerald S says

        Radinovich’s “betrayal” of his constituents — that is his refusal to vote to continue to exclude gays and lesbians from the right to marry who they choose — is seen as a “profiles in courage” moment by many people, certainly by a large majority of DFLers. He is seen as casting a vote for the right thing even though he knew it would probably cost him his seat.

        Many, if not most, people feel that for someone to cover up and to protect the perpetrator of abusive behavior puts them in the same category as the perpetrator in terms of continuing the oppression of the victims.

        And the facts in this case are not being disputed by Nolan or anyone else. Nolan admits it occurred, claims he directed his staff to deal with it, and professes ignorance as to how the perpetrator happened to be recommended by his DC office for a job in MN where people were not aware of his past.

        • David Gray says

          I’m sure it is always possible to dress up a failure to represent your constituents as a noble deed. If what he did was not morally repugnant you still would be on thin ice.

          I’m sure many people feel many things.

        • I like how Dems try to portray Radinovich as only having lost his seat in 2014 because of his vote for gay marriage. He won by just over one point in 2012 (a strong Dem year) and lost by about four points in 2014 (a strong Republican year). That’s the way elections can go in swing districts. Probably had little to nothing to do with his vote on gay marriage.

          • I suspect that what you are saying about the elections is largely true, Todd, and that both his win and his loss were more closely related to the ebb and flow of politics than his vote on same sex marriage.

            However, that has nothing to do with what David is saying. He says flat out that Radinovich’s vote was “morally repugnant,” voicing his own opinion that gay and lesbian people are outside the pale of morality. Although he is certainly not alone in that opinion, fortunately, he is now in a minority, even among conservatives and Republicans, Opinions have shifted on that issue, with majorities finding gays, lesbians, and same sex marriage morally acceptable, except among people over 60.

            David sees Radinovich’s vote as morally untenable, but a large majority of DFLers find it not just acceptable, but heroic. Historically, many politicians have chosen to vote against popular opinion and in favor of moral positions, including Abraham Lincoln’s votes against the Mexican American War, LBJ’s support of civil rights against the opinions of his Texas constituents, Paul Wellstone’s vote against the disastrous error of the Iraq War, and a long list of similar votes cited by JFK in his book “Profiles in Courage.” Radinovich’s vote favoring same sex marriage is one more example, one which by now is seen as correct by a significant majority of Americans.

  6. I suppose those who supported slavery were representing their constituents at the time, too. Morally repugnant to stand up for civil/ human rights? I don’t think so…

    • David Gray says

      Minnesota is divided between those who adhere to the traditional Abrahamic faiths and those who do not and this division is roughly reflected in views as to whether marriage can be redefined. To those of the Abrahamic faiths trying to say that you can redefine marriage would be like saying you can redefine motherhood so that a man could be a mother. To others it is simply a term which can have whatever content a majority in the legislature wants to assign it. Both sides assign the question moral content and value based on their presuppositions. The Abrahamic understanding has been around for thousands of years. People can disagree with me but I am disinclined to abandon what my faith has taught for two thousand years.

      BTW, you asked how you had been dishonest about me in the past. You repeatedly asserted I had advocated for Trump prior to the election, despite being corrected. I never advocated for Trump prior to the election in any forum. Have respect for the truth.

      • David, you are simply wrong in saying that members and leaders of the traditional Abrahamic faiths see same sex marriage as wrong. Large numbers of members and leaders of Christian and Jewish religions agree that same sex marriage is not only not immoral, but that the union of two people in love is a central part of the beliefs of the faiths. Many, many rabbis and ministers regularly perform same sex marriages.

        I think what you are arguing is for a particular interpretation of the traditional Abrahamic faiths, based on the beliefs that you and others hold, and ignoring the beliefs of many other members of those faiths. The suggestion that marriage has a definition similar to motherhood, that is that it is biologically defined, is simply not held by a majority of Americans, including a majority of members of Christian and Jewish faiths, and including their leaders. Instead, they view marriage as something akin to parenthood, not determined by biology, but instead determined by an act of commitment. Just as people can adopt a child and make her their own, people can embrace each other in marriage by an act of their own pledge of honor and commitment.

        Perhaps what you really mean is not “Abrahamic” but what is usually called “fundamental.” You are probably correct that a majority of fundamentalist Christians agree with your view, although among people under 35, even that is no longer true. The notion that gays and lesbians are immoral and repugnant has been disappearing rapidly in America, mostly, IMO, due to the “coming out” of so many ordinary people resulting in changing people’s view of what gays and lesbians are really like. When your doctor, your city councilor, your insurance salesman, and your child’s kindergarten teacher are all “out,” it starts to become hard to see them as somehow “repugnant.” Same sex marriage has had an impact on all that, because same sex marriages of friends, acquaintances, and relatives have been an eye opening experience for many people.

        As far a s Trump, it is my recollection that the only regular on this forum who publicly supported Trump before the election was the now departed Ranger. I suspect that because you often agreed with him on other issues, people may have conflated the two of you in their minds.

        • David Gray says

          Someone who continues to claim membership in an Abrahamic faith but has radically altered the content has, objectively, subscribed to a different faith, regardless of what they may choose to call themselves.

          • Gerald S says

            Various Abrahamic faiths claim, with good biblical evidence, that it is a sin to pray in the presence of women, to loan money for interest, to use birth control, or to eat a cheeseburger. I would guess that you do not follow any of those rules, radically altering the content of the classic Abrahamic beliefs to suit your own ideas.

            What you are saying, in so many words, is that you have access to the truth about religion and that anyone who disagrees with you is wrong. That is not all that uncommon a belief, one shared by groups like ISIS, the Orange Militia, and white supremacist groups, as well as some more mainstream groups. In the mainstream culture of the United States, that is not the general value. Tolerance is, and tolerance is the main reason why same sex marriage is now the law of the land and the state of Minnesota.

          • David Gray says

            No Gerald, I am not saying that. I am simply saying Christianity has existed for 2000 years and despite division among Christians there is a common body of belief in what one might term catholic Christianity. When you deviate from that then you are practicing something else.

          • You are, however, reserving the definition of what is that “common body of belief” to apply only to your own choices, not to the choices of a majority of members and leaders of all of the various Christian religions, or indeed to other subgroups. Again, it is not all that uncommon for members of various religious sects to maintain that their personal beliefs are in fact the true expression of God’s will. You seem to be part of that.

            Historically, in fact, if you really want to go back for 2000 years, Christianity has included, as part of its common body of belief, the complete subjugation of women both socially and economically, anti-Semitism, the belief in the “divine right of kings,” and — for 1400 of those 2000 years — the belief that the Pope was God’s ultimate authority on Earth . Most current Christian traditions have thrown out all of that. Most of them have also thrown out the idea that homosexuality is repugnant and a grave sin and that homosexuals are not entitled to form sanctioned loving relationships. There are some groups still clinging to each of those values, and all of them make the claim that they are the repository of the true body of belief.

          • David Gray says

            No Gerald, I am not.

            Most Christians have thrown out the idea that homosexual acts are sin?

            That isn’t even true in this country and you must be ethnocentric to be tossing out Christian opinion, both throughout the world and throughout time. Only the tiniest fringe of Christians have argued for such a thing.

          • Gerald S says

            Sorry David, but you are wrong, definitely in terms of Americans and also in terms of citizens of other developed countries.

            I will put up the actual polling data in another post, since Aaron’s screening software delays the posting of links to prevent spam, but the numbers, from recent polling by Gallup on the general view toward homosexuality and on gay marriage, and from Pew on the breakout of data by religious background shows that 75% of Americans feel gays and lesbian are normal people, and that 67% support gay marriage. Among American Christians, 68% of mainline protestants and 67% of Catholics favor same sex marriage. Only 35% of white evangelicals and 44% of black protestants support gay marriage, but that is up from 13% and 30% in 2001, and a majority of white evangelicals under 35 support gay marriage, as do a majority of black Christians under 50.

            Western Europe and other developed countries show even more support for same sex marriage, including among most religious people, and it is legal in most developed countries.

            It is true that the attitudes are reversed in many undeveloped countries, especially in Africa and parts of Asia and in a few Latin countries. Most Muslim countries display opposition to and persecution of homosexuals, but Muslims living in other countries show attitudes similar to Christians overall, with better educated Muslims and members of more mainstream sects supportive and members of more conservative and less educated groups intolerant.

            Basically, intolerance of homosexuality and policies discriminating against them are an artifact of underdevelopment, low levels of education, and of age. In the US, it is restricted almost entirely to a couple of subgroups of Christians, and even in them predominantly among older people. In other modern countries the same thing holds true.

          • Gerald S says

            Here are the actual survey data from the US. You can easily Google information from other countries from any number of sources.

          • Gerald S says
          • Gerald S says

            Sorry. The software seems to be blocking the post with the links entirely. It may come up later

          • David Gray says

            I’m talking about churches teaching on the topic. And even your polling doesn’t really touch on my critique.

            If you post a link it won’t show until Aaron approves it.

        • David Gray says

          BTW, the idea that “fundamentalist” Christians are the only ones who concur with the Bible that homosexual activity is sinful (like, adultery, gluttony, covetousness, etc.) only indicates you don’t know what “fundamentalist” means. I used to be a fundamentalist evangelical and haven’t been for years.

        • Gerald S says

          All of the major mainstream protestant churches and the Reformed Judaism movement have adopted teachings that homosexuality is not a sin, and all of them allow not only same sex marriages but also gay and lesbian ministers and rabbi’s, many of whom are married to same sex partners. The Catholic Church and the evangelical protestant churches do continue to teach that homosexuality is a sin, but, as the polling shows, their members are rapidly swinging away from that teaching on their own, just as they have on issues like birth control.

          In fifty years the notion that people considered gays and lesbians repugnant and advocated denying them basic rights open to most people will seem strange, puzzling, and disturbing, just as the rabid anti-Semitism and the opposition to interracial marriage of a few decades ago is considered strange to most people today, despite the fact that it used to be a central part of religious beliefs.

  7. I do not recall repeatedly asserting you advocated for Trump. You most certainly have advocated for unequal rights for LGBT persons, hiding behind “tradition/faith”. If it were up to people of your persuasion (white older men) , we would still be stuck in the 1920’s. However, Trump IS doing doing his damndest to take us back there. How proud you must be to belong to his party.

    • David Gray says

      This is the sort of uncivil comment that is why civil discourse has deteriorated. You can certainly argue that I am wrong. But arguing that I’m hiding behind Christianity is not a civil argument. You can argue that Christianity is wrong but the basis of your argument is that I, essentially, am a Christian simply because it gives me cover to indulge in an irrational hatred of homosexuals. I don’t hate homosexuals. I can even think of one who I love a great deal.

  8. Anyhow, we have gotten way off topic. The main point is that the scandal with Nolan and his management of an employee who committed significant sexual harassment and some sexual assault has roiled both the governor’s and the CD8 races.

    Nolan and Swanson seem to have decided to tough it out, maintaining that the incident is not relevant to their campaign and attacking the women involved as being motivated by political considerations, not the desire to have their stories heard and stop similar incidents in the future. How this will play with DFL voters, and especially with female voters, remains to be seen.

    Meanwhile, Radinovich seems to have actually benefitted from the scandal, with the women involved singling him out for praise as a person who took their complaints seriously and acted on them despite some risk to his own position and career.

    • David Gray says

      I would say Nolan and Swanson have a good case for their argument.

      It would be fun to see professional polling of how the CD 8 primary is shaping up.

      • Gerald S says

        I think that shows the division among the two parties pretty well. The Democrats have decided, as a party, to clean house on the abuse of women, and are basically unwilling to accept excuses or to tolerate “old boy” type behavior. It will be interesting to see how this plays out, since you never know, but I think this could be fatal for the Swanson campaign. That may give Walz the clean contest between him and Murphy he was hoping for in the beginning.

        Last polling I saw in CD8 was Radinovich’s own in house poll, now about 45 days old, showing him and Lee in a virtual tie for first, but with over 50% undecided. I was actually personally polled in that one, and was one of the undecided. Mills’s poll covered the governor’s race, the Smith Senate race and general information as to party leanings, but no specific data on House races.

        The one thing I am seeing personally is left wingers, including many former Phifer supporters, coming around to Lee. Depending on how Metsa and Radinovich split the regular and union votes, she may surprise people. What that would mean for November I cannot decide.

        It is especially interesting to me that the candidates supportive of non-ferrous mining seem to be soft peddling their positions on that. In the MPR debate, in response to a very direct question even Metsa was not very aggressive in his position, and he has taken it off his web site. Makes me wonder if the DFL has internal polling showing that that position is not playing well in district as a whole.

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