Weeks ago, former Minnesota State Representative Tony Cornish hinted he may run for his old seat—House District 23B, which includes parts of Blue Earth, Le Sueur, Watonwan and Waseca counties.
Cornish, who had a longstanding reputation at the State Capitol as a philanderer, resigned from the seat in 2017 amid multiple and serious sexual assault and harassment allegations. For example, he admitted to attempting to solicit sex from a DFL lobbyist via text message. And before the 2017 harassment allegations, former Republican House Speaker Kurt Zellers warned Cornish about his behavior.
When Cornish stepped down, a special election was held in which current State Representative Jeremy Munson won the seat. Munson has since been a strong conservative in St. Paul, and has proved he can think outside of the box to tackle the issues Minnesotans face—including when he was able to pass a healthcare price transparency bill he authored during his first year at the Capitol.
That stands in sharp contrast with Cornish, a “moderate” Republican who quickly became a political insider during his nearly 15 years in the state legislature, from 2002 to 2017.
And its no secret that some Republican insiders in the Capitol would rather have a Tony Cornish—a politician willing to play along with the political game—instead of a Munson—an independent mind who wants to change the way that St. Paul works.
But as Cornish and his backers, whoever they may be, mull a run against Munson, its worth remembering that Cornish has a controversial history that goes beyond the sexual harassment allegations that emerged in 2017.
There are a lot of rumors about Cornish. Here’s what we know.
In 1990, Cornish was a conservation officer for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources: a position he served in from 1980 until 2002. In 1990, his ex-wife received a domestic abuse protection order against him: one incident involved Cornish “trespassing,” and another incident involved him climbing in the window while she was in the shower, according to a retired Sherriff’s Deputy, George Gray. The incident stood out in Gray’s mind, because it was “egregious.”
Gray told the Star Tribune: “In my opinion if someone else had done that they would have been arrested. If it had been my call he would have been arrested.” Of course, it is likely that Cornish wasn’t arrested because he was the local conservation officer.
Little else is known about the incident, and no details have yet been discovered.
If Cornish decides to run again, against fellow-Republican Munson, he should face renewed questions about this and other incidents, which speak to his ability to exercise good-judgment and govern.
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