Herald JournalHerald and Journal, Oct. 21, 2002

Darren Knight enters Borrell-Schmidt race as a write-in

By Lynda Jensen

Republicans are scrambling in the race for state representative District 19B, on the heels of news coverage about a sex incident 15 years ago associated with candidate Dick Borrell of Waverly.

News coverage of the incident prompted Wright County Republicans to ask Borrell to withdraw from the race, which he refused.

Since Borrell is refusing to drop out of the race, the Wright County Republican leadership will be unable to endorse another candidate, said Chairman Randy Heuer.

State Rep. Bruce Anderson-(R) of Buffalo, who currently holds the office that Borrell is running for, reacted with disgust. Anderson holds District 19B, but is running for District 19A this year because of redistricting.

Anderson described the situation as a "crises in the endorsement process," referring to the Republican endoresement and the time element of the election, since it is impossible for the Republicans to officially choose a different candidate.

It is too late to change the ballot, commented Gloria Gooler of the Wright County Auditor's Office.

In the meantime, a write-in campaign has been launched for Republican Darren Knight.

Knight is a lawyer from Delano and graduate of the University of Minnesota. After college, he played professional baseball for the Chicago Cubs and Montreal Expos.

Borrell defeated Knight by nine votes in the primary election Sept. 10 for the Republican ticket.

Both Borrell and Knight are Republicans, and are against DFLer Lori Schmidt of Otsego in the race for state representative District 19B.

Anderson urged others to "Write in Knight," saying that he withdrew his support from Borrell.

Wright County Republicans declined to give direction to Republican voters, Heuer said.

The write-in campaign for Knight appears to be gaining momentum, since staffers at Republican House Speaker Steve Sviggum's office contacted the Wright County auditor asking about stickers for Knight's write-in campaign, Gooler said.

The stickers are planned for a direct mail and telephone campaign planned by Knight supporters. Republican voters may soon find the stickers in their mailboxes, Knight said, or they may be picked up around town during the day of the election.

The write-in campaign will be an interesting feat in an area that is considered bedrock Republican, Knight commented.

During the endorsement process, Knight was tied with Borrell, he said ­ but Republicans decided to go with Borrell probably because he was well known in the area; where Knight is fairly a newcomer, moving here in 1998, Knight said.

Schmidt is a social worker who describes herself as a fiscal conservative. Her husband, Chris Schmidt, grew up in Howard Lake.

District 19B encompasses the townships of Victor, Woodland, and Rockford as well as the cities of Waverly and Montrose.

Write-in votes are easier than in past

Those thinking of write-in votes will be interested to learn that the laws have been changed to make it easier to write-in candidates, Gooler said.

Previously, a voter had to write the exact name that the person was registered under, which caused problems for people with nicknames and those who registered with middle names, she said.

Now, election judges are instructed to look for voter intent, which means that the judge looks for whom the voter was trying to vote for, rather than eject votes on technicalities, she said.

"If the Ts are not crossed and Is are not dotted, we are instructed to count that vote," Gooler said.

Knight has registered with the secretary of state as an official write-in candidate, which can be done up to 24 hours before the election, Gooler said. All of the precincts have been notified in District 19B about Knight, she said.

More write-in votes will mean delayed results for those precincts, she added. The voting machines will count the other votes on the ballot, but once a write-in vote is detected, the machine spits it out the side and is counted by hand, she said.

How it came about

The situation started when the Star Tribune printed a story Oct. 5 about sexual misconduct by Borrell in 1987.

The article details an incident, in which Borrell admitted to tricking a woman into a sexual act by trespassing into her apartment bedroom in the early morning hours following a night of heavy drinking, according to court documents.

The woman, who was engaged to a relative of Borrell's, said she thought Borrell was her fiance. Borrell was 35 at the time of the incident and she was in her 20s. Borrell is 50 now.

The woman sought counseling and filed suit in 1993. Borrell paid her $20,000 in a settlement for "negligent infliction of emotional distress."

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