Duluth lawmakers call on Rick Nolan to resign from Congress

U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan answers questions regarding his role as the runningmate for Minnesota attorney general Lori Swanson who announced earlier that she is running for governor, at the Marquette Hotel in Minneapolis on June 4, 2018. Lacey Young | MPR News

Seven Duluth policymakers are calling on U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan to resign from Congress in the wake of sexual harassment allegations against a former staffer in his office.

In a letter Tuesday afternoon, three Duluth city councilors, a state senator, a county commissioner and several school board members -- all men -- said Nolan should resign from his seat in Minnesota's 8th Congressional District. The sexual harassment allegations, reported in MinnPost , center around former staffer Jim Swiderski, who several women said grabbed and harassed them in Nolan’s office and was allowed to leave in 2015 instead of face disciplinary actions. In 2016, Swiderski was briefly hired back as a contractor on Nolan’s re-election bid.

"It's important as elected officials to hold each other accountable for our actions. This is why we are asking for Rep. Nolan to resign his congressional seat," the letter read. "We believe that sexual harassment and misconduct is never acceptable, that dismissal should be immediate for men who participate in this behavior such as Rep. Nolan’s former legislative director, and that all people deserve respect in the workplace."

Nolan, a Democrat who announced earlier this year that he is not seeking re-election to Congress, still has six months left in his term. He is currently running for lieutenant governor alongside Attorney General Lori Swanson.

Nolan did not immediately respond to the call for him to step down from office. There have also been calls for him to leave the governor's race, but Swanson has defended her running mate.

"We are disappointed by Congressman Nolan's disregard for women who experienced sexual harassment in his workplace. It's equally important to us as men to stand up and hold each other accountable for this type of behavior. We respect the courage of women to share their stories and we are calling out Congressman Nolan's blaming of victims for the harassment by a member of his leadership team," the letter continued. "As fathers, brothers, husbands, and partners we don't accept this status quo. We are committed to change. And that change starts with the 8th District."

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The letter was signed by DFL state Sen. Erik Simonson, Duluth City Council President Noah Hobbs, Duluth councilors Zach Filipovich and Joel Sipress, Duluth School Board members Josh Gorham and David Kirby and St. Louis County Commissioner Patrick Boyle.

Nolan and Swanson are in a competitive, three-way Aug. 14 primary against U.S. Rep. Tim Walz and state Rep. Erin Murphy. Simonson and Hobbs have endorsed Walz in the governor's race, and Boyle and Kirby are supporting Murphy.

In response, Nolan's Congressional office said his previous statements on the allegations stand.

"Women must be encouraged to speak their truth and must always be listened to with respect," Nolan said in an earlier statement. "I have Zero Tolerance for inappropriate behavior in the workplace. Sexual harassment is not condoned in my Congressional office or in my campaign committee."