Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Rob Hahn says he was wrong when he made verbal and physical threats against his ex-wife last year.
Hahn held a news conference Thursday to respond to media reports about the incident, and try to get beyond an issue that could derail his third-party campaign before the Aug. 10 primary.
Hahn didn't dispute court records that describe an incident of domestic violence at his St. Paul home in March 2009.
Hahn's wife Megan told the court he pushed her against a wall, broke a telephone and put her in a choke hold. She said he threatened to kill her. She was granted a restraining order that remains in effect. The marriage ended last year after 16 years.
Rob Hahn said he was caught up in the emotions of a divorce and made a one-time mistake. He said voters should not worry about a similar outburst if he's elected governor.
"If this were a repeated process and I had a record of this, or if it had occurred on a number of occasions, then yes, maybe. This was a one-time isolated incident," Hahn said. "I think if anything, the voters should appreciate the fact that I have taken this head on, admitted my mistake, learned from it and now use it as part of my platform. And I haven't shied away from it as all."
Hahn, who runs a small publishing business, said he's never tried to hide the incident. He said he brought it up four months ago during a State Capitol event where he outlined his proposal for family law reform. Hahn said no reporters covered the announcement, but he posted a video of the event on his campaign website, in which he explained the incident.
Video: Last year, my ex and I got into a bit of a verbal row and unfortunately it escalated to something a little more. The police did not have to come and break it up. There were no injuries. No need for medical attention and no charges were filed. But my ex and her attorney did seek and get from the court, an order for protection against me."
Hahn said after the incident, he voluntarily enrolled in a program to help deal with his emotions.
Carol Arthur, executive director of the Domestic Abuse Project in Minneapolis, said she cannot confirm or deny Hahn's enrollment because of confidentiality. She did, however, describe a 23-week program designed to help men recognize and control their domestic abusive behavior.
Arthur said based on her experience, an abuser can change, and could even serve as governor.
"It would depend on the context. Is this a governor who has said, 'Yes, this is part of my past, I've dealt with it, I've gone through a program I've learned how to change my behavior,'" said Arthur. "That would be a real different scenario than someone that it comes up that domestic violence has occurred, but they've never, never done anything to acknowledge the behavior and change it."
Arthur said she hopes the issue of domestic violence continues to get attention in this year's governor's race.
Hahn is running against Tom Horner, the Independence Party's endorsed candidate, in the Aug. 10 primary. A Horner spokesman said the campaign would not comment.
Domestic violence will be the focus of a gubernatorial forum scheduled for Sept. 23 in Minneapolis. Primary voters will decide in 12 days whether Hahn gets an invitation to participate.