A special election for a St. Paul City Council seat has been overshadowed by the increasingly erratic behavior of its least-known candidate, David Martinez, culminating in his arrest less than a month before Election Day.
Mayor Melvin Carter, along with the other two candidates for the Fourth Ward seat, called for Martinez to drop out of the council race after he posted a seminude photo of his estranged wife and a restraining order she filed against him on his campaign website.
In a statement, Carter called Martinez’s behavior “disturbing” and said it “has no place in our city.”
“I wish the best to his family and our entire community as we heal from the harm his acts have caused,” Carter said. “He should drop out of the City Council race immediately.”
Martinez’s online post and subsequent arrest Monday morning capped a tumultuous week of revelations about his behavior and personal life, from his arrest at George Latimer Central Library to his ban from Target Field to his marital conflict. Martinez documented all of it on his campaign blog, which has since been taken down.
Martinez, 38, is running against Mitra Jalali Nelson and Shirley Erstad for the open Fourth Ward City Council seat previously occupied by Council President Russ Stark, who left the council to join Carter’s staff. The special election will be held Aug. 14.
In an interview from the Ramsey County jail, Martinez told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that he would “absolutely” continue his bid for the council seat. He also told the newspaper that his campaign website had been hacked and that he didn’t post the photo in question.
A candidate forum hosted by the University of St. Thomas and the Macalester-Groveland Community Council is scheduled for Wednesday evening but may be canceled. Doug Hennes, vice president for government relations at St. Thomas, said Martinez had been scheduled to attend. “Right now, we are reviewing the situation to determine whether we’re still going to hold the forum,” Hennes said.
On Sunday, Erstad said on her campaign website that Martinez’s conduct disqualifies him from holding office.
“As a woman and mother of three daughters, I am all too aware of the repercussions of sexual exploitation and violence against women and the consequences when good people stand by and say nothing,” Erstad said.
Nelson issued a statement Monday saying Martinez’s actions related to the online post “violate our most deeply-held values about basic human respect.”
“It also follows a string of public incidents involving Mr. Martinez in which his combative behavior resulted in him being ejected from two different public spaces,” Nelson said. “This pattern of behavior calls into serious question his judgment and ability to serve in public office at this time.”
Martinez was the last candidate to join the Fourth Ward council race. Campaign finance reports show he raised more than $1,300, though most of that was a personal loan. The two donors listed in the most recent report live in Texas and California, and each donated $100.
Possible felony charges
Police arrested Martinez without incident Monday morning at his workplace in downtown St. Paul, for probable cause of nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images. He could face felony charges under Minnesota law, which, if they lead to a felony conviction, would prohibit him from serving on the City Council.
The Ramsey County Attorney’s Office asked police for more investigation and has not yet made a decision about whether to charge, said Erica Schumacher, the county attorney’s director of strategic initiatives and community relations.
Martinez’s arrest Monday came less than two weeks after he was arrested and cited for disorderly conduct at the Central Library. He was subsequently banned from the library system for a month. The next day, he was banned from Target Field for a year after tussling with security officers.
In interviews last week, Martinez said that in both cases he was standing up against perceived injustice. At the library, he said, he intervened when he saw a security guard escorting a young black man out of the building. At Target Field, he was asked to leave after jumping over a barrier, he said.
“I am gonna be the guy that stands up, even though it means I end up in handcuffs,” he said.
According to St. Paul police spokesman Steve Linders, a police investigator tried to contact WordPress, the online platform that hosted Martinez’s website, on Saturday to get the seminude image taken down but couldn’t reach anyone. The site was taken down Sunday.
Mark Armstrong, a spokesman for WordPress’ parent company, Automattic, said the company does not comment on user accounts. WordPress prohibits publication of unauthorized, private nude images.
According to the restraining order Martinez posted on his website, he allegedly physically assaulted his wife on July 4, the day before his arrest at the library. Linders said Martinez’s wife, who the Star Tribune is not naming because she is the victim of an alleged sex crime, reported the assault to police after they contacted her over the weekend about the photo.
The two married in 2005. She has filed for divorce.
Allegations of abuse
In the restraining order, Martinez’s wife said he assaulted her in their basement laundry room. She left and called police, who let her back inside the house so she could take their children and some personal items.
“I have grown increasingly fearful and concerned about David’s behavior and am scared for me and our children,” she said. “He has become more erratic, verbally abusive and confrontational. I would describe his behavior as ‘unhinged.’ ”
In his blog post, which has been taken down, Martinez said most of his wife’s testimony was “fabricated/made-up.”
Since December, Martinez had worked as a temporary, unclassified employee with the Minnesota Department of Commerce, according to spokesman Ross Corson. Martinez’s appointment was terminated Monday morning, Corson said.
Staff writers Erin Adler and Josephine Marcotty contributed to this report.