Even as he sat in the Ramsey County jail on Tuesday, David Martinez was still influencing the special election for St. Paul City Council.
When the 38-year-old Martinez said he planned to stay in the race despite his recent arrests and calls to drop out, the University of St. Thomas and the Macalester-Groveland Community Council canceled a candidate forum scheduled for Wednesday evening.
Police arrested Martinez Monday morning after a seminude image of his estranged wife appeared on his campaign website. If not charged by Wednesday morning, he will be released from jail.
"Given the circumstances and what's transpired with the race over the course of the past week, we've decided to cancel the candidate forum," Doug Hennes, the university's vice president for government relations, said Tuesday.
Martinez is running against Shirley Erstad and Mitra Jalali Nelson in a special election for the Fourth Ward seat. He has no political experience and is the least-known candidate in what had been an otherwise quiet race.
Martinez's most recent arrest comes shortly after he was arrested and cited with disorderly conduct at George Latimer Central Library in the first week of July and then banned from Target Field for a year after an alleged altercation with security officers.
Both Erstad and Nelson, as well as Mayor Melvin Carter, have called for Martinez to drop out of the race. Carter declined further comment through a spokeswoman on Tuesday, and Nelson referred to her previous statement.
The Fourth Ward seat is open for the first time in a decade. With Election Day less than a month away, time for candidates to reach voters is running out — and the cancellation of Wednesday's forum eliminates one of the last opportunities for the candidates to debate issues in person.
"It does really impact democracy, because we have important conversations to be had around the issues," Erstad said. "Having something like this happen … just further impacts that ability for us to run full campaigns."
Fourth Ward resident Noelle Jacque-Morrison said the decision to cancel the forum does a disservice to area residents.
"I am sorely disappointed that two people are having their voices taken away because another one has some issues," said Jacque-Morrison, a member of the Union Park District Council board. She said she was speaking as a resident of Merriam Park, not a board member. "It would have been easy to say 'Mr. Martinez, in view of the current situation, we are asking you not to participate.' "
The League of Women Voters has scheduled a July 30 candidate forum and all three candidates are expected to attend, according to the online event page. Voter Service Chair Amy Perna said there are no plans to cancel the forum.
The Ramsey County Attorney's Office has not yet decided whether to charge Martinez and has asked police to investigate further. Martinez could face felony charges under Minnesota law, and if convicted, he would be prohibited from serving on the City Council.
In a conversation from the Ramsey County jail Monday night, Martinez told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that his campaign website was hacked and he plans to stay in the council race.
In addition to the seminude photo of Martinez's wife, the post on his website — which has since been taken down — included a link to a restraining order she filed against him. In the order, filed in Ramsey County District Court July 13, his wife describes a history of abuse and a July 4 incident in which Martinez physically assaulted her while their two children were in the house. No charges have been filed in that incident.
Martinez did not respond to requests for comment from the Star Tribune over the weekend and could not be reached Monday or Tuesday.
Staff writer James Walsh contributed to this report.