Former Republican legislator drops out of race for Hennepin County Board

Anselmo is the third candidate to drop from the special election race in the last two months.

The business leader and former legislator represented Edina in the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2017 and 2018. (Photo from Dario Anselmo for Commissioner)

A former Republican legislator challenging the girlfriend of Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty in a high-profile special election for a Hennepin County Board seat announced this weekend that he is ending his campaign.

Dario Anselmo, who launched his campaign in October to compete for a vacant seat on the Hennepin County Board, told supporters on Saturday that his decision to bow out of the race for the District 6 seat came down to a “mix of issues, opposition and potential outside support that existed when we launched this campaign last fall [that] has dramatically shifted.”

“And not in a way that is beneficial to the kind of truly non-partisan, issue-based campaign that I want to run,” Anselmo said in a statement on social media.

Anselmo is the third candidate to drop from the special election race in the last two months, after as many as seven candidates had at one time thrown their hats in the ring to vie for the seat that became vacant in September upon the resignation of Chris LaTondresse.

In November, Edina City Council member Caroline Jackson and former Minneapolis City Council candidate Alicia Gibson withdrew their candidacy from the race. That was just days after retiring Edina DFL legislator Heather Edelson announced she was running for the seat.

In addition to Edelson, the candidate field that remains includes Jen Westmoreland, a Hopkins School Board member and progressive political activist who is also the partner of Hennepin County Attorney Mary Moriarty. Two others, Edina residents Janet Kitui and Democrat operative Patrick Gage, are also running. Gage recently announced he has the support of DFL state Sen. Bonnie Westlin.

Both Westmoreland and Edelson continue to run very active social media campaigns for the seat.

When Anselmo entered the race in October, he indicated one of his primary motivations for running was due to the frustrations he had heard from residents and business owners from around Hennepin County — both Democrats and Republicans — who are critics of County Attorney Moriarty’s tenure that they say is soft on crime. Anselmo and others have criticized Westmoreland for running for the seat due to perceived potential conflicts of interest, even as she has publicly vowed not to let her relationship with Moriarty impact her decision making if she were elected to the Hennepin County Board, which controls the budget of the county attorney.

A special election primary for the county board seat will be held on April 9. The top two voter earners will face off in a general special election on May 14. Whoever wins that race must file to run again in November, thanks in part to the timing of LaTondresse’s September resignation, where he still had more than a year remaining on his first and only term.

Hennepin County’s commissioner salary is $113,000 per year. No other county in Minnesota pays its elected commissioners a salary in the six figures, according to a list compiled by the state’s legislative coordinating commission.


Hank Long

Hank Long is a journalism and communications professional whose writing career includes coverage of the Minnesota legislature, city and county governments and the commercial real estate industry. Hank received his undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, where he studied journalism, and his law degree at the University of St. Thomas. The Minnesota native lives in the Twin Cities with his wife and four children. His dream is to be around when the Vikings win the Super Bowl.