Special election voting underway in two Minnesota districts

Special election voting is underway in the Cottage Grove, Minnesota area and an area just southwest of Mankato for the seats to replace Sen. Dan Schoen and Rep. Tony Cornish. Both lawmakers resigned late last year following allegations of sexual harassment.

THE CANDIDATES: Democrat Karla Bigham and Republican Denny McNamara are facing off for the Senate District 54 the Senate seat to replace Schoen. Republican Jeremy Munson is facing Democrat Melissa Wagner in the House District 23B race to replace Cornish.

WHAT’S AT STAKE: The Republican party currently holds a one-seat majority in the Minnesota Senate and a 19-seat majority in the Minnesota House.

CORNISH ALLEGATIONS: Rep. Erin Maye Quade (DFL-Apple Valley) told Fox 9 that Cornish texted her he got "busted" for looking at her on the House floor because she "looked too damn good." Cornish told Fox 9 the texts were taken out of context and were meant to be a joke between colleagues. Minnesota lobbyist Sarah Walker formally acknowledged she was one of the women who came forward about Cornish. In a statement posted on Twitter, she stated she was sexually harassed by Cornish. She had originally chosen to remain anonymous in order to avoid "retaliation". 

In a statement, Cornish said he came to an agreement to apologize to Walker for his "unwelcome behavior" and would resign from office by Dec. 1. However, his statement did not mention Maye Quade.

SCHOEN ALLEGATIONS: The sexual harassment allegations against Sen. Schoen were first reported by MinnPost in early November. The accounts of harassment came from several women, including Rep. Erin Maye Quade (DFL-Apple Valley), former DFL candidate Lindsey Port and a Senate employee, prompting several high-profile colleagues to call for his resignation, including the governor and Senate Majority Leader Tom Bakk.

Maye Quade reported that she received a series of inappropriate text messages from Schoen with unwanted advances when she was working for U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, repeatedly asking her if she wanted to get a drink with him and suggested she come over when his children were not home.

Port, who first met Schoen at a networking event while she was a candidate for the state House in the Burnsville area, also told MinnPost he made several comments on her body and at one point grabbed her buttocks from behind.

“Yep, yep," Schoen said, according to Port. "That’s a good door-knocking ass.” 

After the first two reports surfaced, a Senate DFL Caucus Human Resources report was filed over another alleged incident in which Schoen sent a Snapchat picture of male genitalia to Ellen Anderson, a DFL staff member at the time.