ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A favorite to run the Minnesota Republican Party dropped out from the race Friday, a day after an airport arrest and amid other questions surrounding his past.

Starkey Laboratories executive Brandon Sawalich announced his decision in a three-paragraph email to party activists. In part, it said the state GOP “cannot afford distractions for the uphill battle our party has in store.”

Sawalich was arrested and cited Thursday because his truck registration had lapsed months ago.

The Associated Press sought comment later Friday on a lawsuit he and a subordinate settled in 2003 claiming sexual harassment. Sawalich didn’t return calls about the civil case. A law firm that represented the employee who claimed unwanted sexual advances didn’t make an attorney available. Court records show the case, filed in 2001, was settled two years later. Terms were not disclosed and both sides paid their own legal fees.

In court records, Sawalich had denied the woman’s claims he made inappropriate comments and offered career advancement in exchange for sex.

Since entering the race Monday to fill the GOP chairmanship void, Sawalich had amassed considerable support among key party figures for his campaign for chairman. Another candidate, former state Rep. Mike Osskopp, entered the race Thursday night. The party will choose its new chairman on Dec. 31.

The Minnesota GOP has endured a gusher of bad news in the last couple of months.

Party chairman Tony Sutton, deputy chairman Michael Brodkorb and a key staff member all left within a couple months of each other. The state GOP faces debts of more than $500,000 from past elections and even more from an unsuccessful 2010 gubernatorial recount.

This week, state Senate Majority Leader Amy Koch resigned her post, and reports surfaced Friday that she faced allegations of inappropriate conduct with an unidentified staff member. And the AP reported Friday on U.S. Senate candidate Joe Arwood’s 2005 conviction for bringing a loaded handgun to the airport without a permit.

Sawalich, a key link to party activist and big donors, was seen as someone who could help get the party back on track. His own unraveling began Thursday.

Sawalich, 36, was detained by airport police officers who noticed his expired registration on a truck registered to him. An assistant had driven it to the airport to pick Sawalich up from a trip, and the businessman was arrested as he left baggage claim. Sawalich said he uses the Ford F-150 in the winter and hadn’t realized his tags were out of date.

He said he was surprised when he was taken into custody, fingerprinted and photographed instead of having the matter resolved through a citation. “There was no altercation. They were courteous and respectful. I was too,” he said.

He was released on his own recognizance and said his wife moved quickly to update the truck registration, which had expired at the end of June. He was initially charged with “intent to escape motor vehicle taxes,” a gross misdemeanor. By Friday, a spokesman for airport police said it would be downgraded to a petty misdemeanor because authorities now regard the overdue registration as “a simple oversight.”

The only other offense on Sawalich’s record is a 2005 petty misdemeanor for speeding, which carried a $125 fine.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Comments (54)
  1. Dale Gribble says:

    This man is a job-creator!!! That tax should not apply to him!!! He is being unjustly prosecuted by the corruct, atheist, socialist DFL politcal machine. Stand up for Salawich, a great American dedicated to God and Freedom!!!

    1. See BS says:

      You think someone was hearing the “Mission Impossible” theme and watching him go to the bathroom at the airport before he got arrested?


  2. barrister says:

    Stand up for a hack that doesnt pay taxes Thats what we need

    1. Realist says:

      Can’t tell if you are trolling or if you are serious o.0

    2. llp says:

      what are you sitting on your face the man didn’t pay his tax

    3. ez says:

      People relax. Its not uncommon to forget to update your tags. People all over the state do it and get cited for it, I am surprised that he was even arrested to begin with.

      1. Cry for me Liberal! says:

        Amen! I had gone an entire year but when I finally caught it the second year I had to pay for both years. So its not like this guy was going to get away with not paying for the tabs.
        Its not like he registered the truck in another State that doesnt charge a sales tax on the purchase.
        This is a story about nothing.

  3. evaichkhanian says:

    Dale Gribble—-seriously?????

    1. Dude says:

      Look up satire in the Webster’s.

  4. Sam I am says:

    Are you effing kidding me. They arrested him for expired tabs. Way way out of line.


    1. Realist says:

      You mean to tell me the law doesn’t apply to him?

      1. Sam I am says:

        Nope not saying that at all. But arresting, fingerprinting, and mug shot is overkill. There are bigger fish to fry then someone who has expired tabs.

        1. Chris says:

          @Sam… you are correct! It would actually take some serious and dangerous police work to worry about the real criminals shooting up our cities on a daily basis… Much easier and safer to ticket (AND ARREST AND PROCESS) someone for past due $150 tabs! This is a perfect example of how our priorities have gotten off track… and then some of you go down the line linking this to the GOP… then you have lost sight of how out of control the cost of mindless police work and administering these bogus charges! What a waste…

        2. llp says:

          but you are still saying he should have gotten a free ride

          1. weswon says:

            No, I don’t think he is saying that at all. He should have been handed a ticket and then let go. The officer then should have went out and found another lawbreaker instead of wasting all that time in the office taking care of this big criminal. Oh well, its safer for the cop to be in the office instead of being out in the field serving and protecting.

            1. mannix76 says:

              Expired tabs are dealt with by issuing a citation. The airport cops are f###ing morons. Remember when they tazed that pedal biker. Please fire this idiot cop.

  5. G Dog says:

    Maybe Tony Sutton will pay the fine for him!

    1. jimmy says:

      Ya his pockets should full after the millions missing from the GOP.

      1. Dale Gribble says:

        Laugh now, comrade. When Ron Paul and the Tea Party take power in 2013, we’ll start rounding up treasonous swine like you and showing them what constitutional law dictates.

        1. jimmy says:

          Dale Gribble What constitution are you going to use the Soviet Union, China, Nazi Germany? What color will the sky be in your NEW WORLD ORDER?

  6. Michele says:

    I’m a liberal, and I agree with Sam I am. Arresting the man was ridiculous.

    I’d forgotten to renew my tabs once; the policeman gave me a citation and a week to fix it. Maybe it was airport police handling it, but this just seems unfair.

    To those who think it’s funny because it’s happening to a Republican, I think you need to think twice about abuse of power and how it can affect you and yours.

    1. Dale Gribble says:

      This man was singled out for prosecution by the socialist DFL and this fellow-traveler here just admitted as much. Does anyone need any more proof that we live in a police state operated by atheist liberal elites dedicated to forcing one-world government on White Christian America? Sawalich is just another decent American whose life will be crushed by treasonous lilberals and their allies.

      1. Megyn Kelley says:

        I bet you didn’t know the police officer who cited him is a registered Republican. Where is your God now?

        1. Reggie says:

          How would you know that?
          B as in B
          S as in S

    2. jimmy says:

      Michele..”To those who think it’s funny because it’s happening to a Republican, I think you need to think twice about abuse of power and how it can affect you and yours.”

      This guy would be a great leader for the GOP, 6 months over due on the tabs. He didn’t realize the tabs were overdue, the letter from the state should have given him a clue. His truck should have been impounded and he should have to go to court. If this was anyone else that is what would happen.

      1. Give me Liberty says:

        Good thing DFL leaders never have any missteps. Oh wait.

    3. Ace says:

      I agree too, It’s not like he killed somebody, he just forgot to renew his tabs and I’ve almost forgotten to renew mine a few times. Now, Joe sensor’s wife, that’s another story, look what she did and she’s not in jail.

  7. hang 'im with an old rope! says:

    OMG, he was arrested for expired tabs? Someone check his head for three sixes! This horrific deed calls the entire world order into question. Thank heavens WCCO is here to make a mountain out of this mole hill. Now if they would only place DFL politicians under the same scrutiny. Oh wait, that wouldn’t quite jive with their liberal agenda.

    1. Mike says:

      statute 168.35, “intent to escape tax,” which reads: “Any person who shall, with intent to escape payment of any tax on a motor vehicle, as herein provided, delay or neglect to properly list and apply to register the same, or, with intent to prevent the payment or collection of the proper tax, fee, or lien thereon, violate or neglect to comply with any of the provisions of this chapter, shall be guilty of a gross misdemeanor.”

      If you can be arrested for shop lifting a candy bar, why not for neglecting to pay your taxes? It’s the law morons………….

      1. oh yeah says:

        The cloak of contrived and hypocritical liberal political correctness serves you well. And how clever of you to associate expired tabs with theft. Why not murder? Unfortunately, the liberal media only places this standard of political corrctness upon the right. If this man would have been a DFL politician WCCO would be portraying him as a victim of overzealous law enforcement and political assasination.

        1. Realist says:

          Dale got some good herb from his dealer.

        2. Ahh yes!! says:

          @oh yeah demonstrates the conservative “habit of mind that prefigures all their crackpot ideas about justice, governance, and everything else — that of the perpetually aggrieved fusspot, the one who thinks everyone’s trying to put something over on (him).”

          Note specifically the “spectacular self-pity and eagerness to take offense.”

          Thank you Roy!!

          1. oh yeah says:

            Please gimme some of that liberal acid. Your disjointed post makes absolutely no sense, but is a typical example of liberal double speak. Note specificlly the inability to compose an original or coherent thought. Your rambling diatribe more aptly describes the typicl liberal whiner.

          2. ??? says:

            “Eagerness to take offense.” Gee, why would anyone be offended by a smug liberal who refers to anyone who disagrees with him as a moron?

          3. right says:

            “Spectacular self-pity” is the essence of liberalism. Liberalism is a sick philosophy of self entitlement that looks to government as a substitute for responsibility and achievement.

      2. @Dale "Dribble" says:

        you remain the Dumbest Cluck in the hen house 😉

    2. llp says:

      you must be a card carrying Klansman

  8. Peace says:

    Everyone better get your tabs renewed. Otherwise, our jails are going to be packed!!

  9. A Wonderful Place, Indeed says:

    It’s just a little reminder of what a wonderful place Minnesota is, especially during the holidays.

  10. you go! says:

    The one good thing about this incident that it provides us with another opportunity to see liberals reveal their true colors. And what a bunch of smug and vicious back biters they are!

    1. Citizen says:

      @you. Yes, we liberals have learned well from our self-righteous, mealy-mouthed conservative brethren.

      1. keith ellisons unpaid tickets says:

        @Citizen, wow what a comeback.

    2. Murph says:

      Hugo,so you too believe that paying taxes are just for the little people? Why should low grade republican bribe takers be exempt? I’m afraid your high boots,goose step and swastika is showing !

  11. USA says:

    Why tax local made in the USA vehicles? That’s why they no longer want to sell/buy local fords. My ford is dead with expired plates. Congress just should have put on an import tax on all foreign vehicles from all foreign countries, and not even tax American made in the USA vehicles.

    1. Matt says:

      Ford sells a lot of cars over seas. you should do some research before you post. Ford isn’t the only name they sell under as well.

  12. Hank Hill says:

    As block captain let me ask everyone to calm down…. (ok… j/k)

    I was shocked that he was taken into custody, printed and photographed for an expired tab. However, being that the initial charged him with a GROSS Misdemeanor, i am guessing that was the reason. Couple of points:

    1. Overzealous cop – expired tabs are a citation and we all know it. There was no “INTENT” on GOP-Guys part to willfully not pay for the expired tabs. I am guessing the Supervisor saw the charge and had it dropped to a misd because there is no way they will be able to prove the INTENT part of the statute. I think the MSP Cop needs to just cite and release unless the car has over a year old tabs. Maybe there is more to the story, but I am guessing since it was dropped there is not.

    2. GOP-boy should request that since his charge has been dropped, his prints and mug shot and arrest record should be destroyed. The mugshot could come back and haunt him. If police are allowed to charge, print/get DNA etc and then drop charges but keep the prints/DNA/mugshot, we would be in a world of hurt.

    Dale you gibblethead! (lol – nothing personal, i’ve always wanted to say that) 🙂

  13. Murph says:

    As the perp is a typical high and mighty GOP’er.I’m sure the attitude,words and demeanor of the miscreant contributed mightily into the end result. If the cop was a non white or non male ,I would give that a 100% sure bet! Every time I see one of them I want slap them up.So far have been able to keep my kool.If they get total power in 2012 all bets are off!

    1. inciting violence says:

      Oh Murph, you tolerant liberal.

  14. Kevin says:

    Oh come on now…there is now spotted blue dress…and “is” “is” what “is” “is”…..and its not like ALL potitians are millionaire criminals…..let em ride……

  15. Greta says:

    I don’t care which party you belong to, you should be responsible enough to pay for your tabs. If you can’t take care of your own finances, why should people believe you, or those you support, can take care of Minnesota’s? At least he didn’t pull a tired old Cougar move and boink a State Senate staffer. Sad that the people supposedly representing “values” are caught yet again. Exactly what ARE their values? Larry Craig and Amy Koch are sexual predators pure and simple. Why can’t they just focus on lowering my taxes instead of trying to police others’ behavior while behaving reprehensibly?

    This tired old Cougar is a mountin’ lion not just a Mountain Lion. Shame on her!!!

  16. d dog says:

    Had to be some mouthing off to the cops. They aren’t usually so harsh. He was probably a pompous a-hole or something. It does not help that as a GOPer he is all for decreasing a public servants pay.

  17. Murph says:

    “Adrian,Adrian”, I coulda been a contender!”. Now you are just another junk heap GOP pretender.Hate to see you trip up that way.Better, if it was at the Grand Canyon! Elephant do do ain’t it grand?

  18. newark ford says:

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