Local/state briefs

Minnesota Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan won’t seek re-election

ST. PAUL (AP) — Democratic Rep. Rick Nolan announced Friday he would skip another uphill climb to re-election and retire from his northeastern Minnesota congressional seat, leaving a wide-open race in a swing district that has attracted tens of millions of dollars in outside spending in recent elections.

Nolan narrowly won three terms in the 8th District starting in 2012, reviving a career in Congress that began with a stint in the 1970s. But he faced another certain barrage from Republicans who see a chance to win one of a few Democratic districts that President Donald Trump won.

Nolan, a moderate Democrat with deep ties to the state’s labor-minded Iron Range, also faced increasing pressure from environmentally minded Democrats trying to block new mining projects in the region.

In a statement announcing his retirement, Nolan said “now is the time for me to pass the baton to the next generation.”

“Fortunately, we are blessed to have a number of highly qualified people who have demonstrated the ability to win tough elections and govern effectively,” he said.

Nolan did not immediately respond to a voicemail seeking an interview.

One Democrat was already running against Nolan. Leah Phifer, a former FBI counterterrorism analyst, was preparing for an endorsement battle shaped by her criticism of Nolan’s push to expedite mining projects on the Iron Range.

Other Democrats are likely to enter the race.

Pete Stauber, a St. Louis County commissioner and retired Duluth police officer, is running on the Republican side.

Long considered a labor-controlled and liberal stronghold, the 8th District has trended toward Republicans in the last decade. Nolan eked out a win for a third term in 2016 while Trump carried the district by 15 percentage points.

Fishing contest prize winners cleared in Brainerd

BRAINERD (AP) — Organizers of a Minnesota ice fishing tournament says an investigation into possible fraud has cleared three Ohio men who won prizes, including a pickup truck.

The Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza said the three family members have passed lie detector tests and will be allowed to keep their prizes, which also includes $1,000 and an ice auger.

Ivan Lyogky of Hartville, Ohio, and his sons Stephan and Rostik were tested separately by a licensed polygraph examiner and no deception was detected. Stephan Lyogky won the contest and the pickup with a northern pike that weighed 3.10 pounds.

Contest organizers said they received an anonymous tip that raised suspicions about the Lyogkys’ fish. About 12,000 anglers participated in the $150,000 contest Jan. 27.

Minnesota city considers banning graffiti on bluff

RED WING (AP) — The rocks of an eastern Minnesota bluff have been painted with graduation announcements, marriage proposals and tributes to the dead since the late 1950s.

But Red Wing is considering ending the tradition after a recent string of resident complaints to controversial graffiti, including signs reading “Dump Trump.”

The Star Tribune reported that the Red Wing City Council is deciding whether to put the graffiti policy at Barn Bluff to a vote, after a survey showed residents’ unhappiness with the city’s largest canvas.

A survey conducted last year found that 49 percent of 400 residents believe painting Barn Bluff should never be allowed.

Some say they’re concerned about people getting injured while painting or covering up graffiti.

Man accused in priest attack believed girlfriend was raped

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Court documents unsealed Friday show a Minnesota man charged with attacking and trying to kill a priest in North Dakota believed the priest had sexually assaulted the man’s girlfriend.

Police said the woman’s story changed when she was interviewed, and the Catholic Diocese of Fargo is standing by the priest, saying the woman denied rape allegations to diocese officials.

Chad Legare, 42, of Alexandria, Minnesota, is accused of assaulting the Rev. Robert Wapenski Jan. 30 at St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church in Anamoose. He’s charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and burglary.

An affidavit from state Bureau of Criminal Investigation Special Agent Craig Zachmeier says that 15 days before the attack, Legare forwarded texts to police from his girlfriend saying she had been raped.

SUV thief asks owner for help to restart vehicle

SARTELL (AP) — It didn’t take police long to catch up with a man who stole a woman’s SUV from the Walmart parking lot in Sartell.

Authorities said the Sauk Centre man took the Jeep Grand Cherokee left running in the parking lot Monday and drove to Isle, about an hour away. Police say a woman later called the vehicle’s owner and said a man was asking questions about the SUV. Then she put the man on the phone with the owner. He said he was with an auto glass company and repaired the vehicle and just needed to get it started again.

WJON reported the man gave the owner an address where OnStar could find the vehicle and start it. Isle police went to the address and arrested the man for stealing the SUV.