DULUTH — Democrat Joe Radinovich confronted claims from a special interest advertisement Wednesday, Sept. 12, by admitting to a long-dismissed drug paraphernalia charge.
“When Joe was a teenager he received a marijuana-related citation,” said campaign manager Meredith Raimondi. “He cooperated and took responsibility for his actions, and the officials in the case saw fit to dismiss the charges.”
Radinovich is in a pitched campaign with Republican Pete Stauber to represent the 8th District in Congress. In the weeks since the August primary, claims have flown at both candidates.
Stauber still has not fully addressed a Star Tribune report from last week outlining his use of his county commissioner’s email address for his congressional campaign.
The latest claim in the 8th District race surfaced Wednesday — this one aimed at Radinovich and hurled by the same well-funded super PAC that brought his record of parking tickets, moving violations and unpaid fines to light in August.
Saying Radinovich “isn’t fit to serve” in its new television commercial, the Congressional Leadership Fund made mention of a possession of drug paraphernalia charge against Radinovich.
The News Tribune located the charge deep in Radinovich’s court history — filed in 2005 in Crow Wing County along with a petty misdemeanor moving citation for failing to signal a turn. Both charges were later dismissed under a plea agreement, and court records show that Radinovich appeared to have his driver’s license suspended for three months as a result of the infractions.
“Joe Radinovich wants to go to Congress to make laws, but he’s spent his life running from the law,” said CLF spokesman Michael Byerly, who added that “Minnesota families deserve better.”
In addition to owning up to the claim, the Radinovich camp rejected the idea that voters will care about a dismissed misdemeanor from more than 10 years ago. The Radinovich camp also set its sights on the Stauber campaign.
“It’s disgraceful that Pete Stauber and his Washington special interest friends are looking to slander Joe and twist his life story around for political purposes,” Raimondi said in a statement. “Joe knows that folks in the 8th District aren’t interested in Washington special interests spending millions of dollars to slander a teenage mistake and buy a seat for Pete Stauber.”
Earlier in the week, Radinovich released his own television ad vowing to refuse corporate PAC money in his campaign. Of course, there are super PACs on both sides and Democratic super PACs are free to target Stauber just as well — though it has not happened yet.
The Republican Party of Minnesota seized on the drug paraphernalia charge.
“Radinovich has proven numerous times that he is incapable of following the law, and there is no reason that he should be elected to make any laws in Congress that he may or may not obey himself,” said state GOP spokesperson Rachael Grooms.
It was in August that Radinovich said he took full responsibility for his 15-year history of moving violations and parking tickets, some of which went unpaid until after his primary election victory.
At the time he said, “I reject that they're a character issue.” He added later in that telephone interview, “I’ve got nothing to hide in general and specifically.”
Earlier this week PolitiFact published a report on Radinovich’s history with parking tickets and moving violations. PolitiFact, a fact-checking website, concluded CLF’s claims in that instance were “mostly true.”
In the article, Radinovich’s campaign did not dispute the tickets and late payments. Campaign spokesman Bennett Smith said the earliest driving offenses are from when Radinovich, 32, was a young man. PolitiFact repeated Minnesota media reports about Radinovich’s mother being shot and killed in a family murder-suicide in 2004.
“Like many people in their late teens and early 20s, Joe has done a lot of growing up," campaign spokesman Bennett Smith told PolitiFact. “He’s matured and is a different person.”
The CLF advertisement citing the possession of drug paraphernalia charge will run on television in the Minneapolis media market and on digital platforms throughout the district. The Minneapolis media market serves the southern part of the 8th District.