Jerald Loud, a DFL legislative candidate in a high-profile race, was found to have "battered" his then-wife in a judge's divorce ruling more than 30 years ago, which also granted a restraining order to the woman.
Loud, a 10-year Navy veteran from Puposky, Minn., who runs a program for needy families for the Red Lake Nation, is competing for an open seat now held by a Republican.
The race in northern Minnesota — pitting Loud against Matt Grossell, a retired Clearwater County sheriff's deputy — will be one of the most closely watched in the November elections, as the DFL tries to flip seven seats to take back the House majority it lost in 2014.
The incident highlights how party officials can be unaware of personal problems of candidates, particularly as both parties are trying to find candidates for hundreds of legislative and statewide races.
In 2014, Republicans overwhelmingly endorsed Michelle MacDonald as a candidate for state Supreme Court justice. They later learned that she had been arrested a year before for drunken driving and that she was awaiting trial, prompting GOP officials to ban her from the party's State Fair booth.
"As a general rule, we stay out of endorsing decisions," said Zach Rodvold, a spokesman for the House DFL caucus.
After a trial in January 1984, District Judge Terrance Holter ruled that Loud had "battered" his wife, and said he had "reason to believe that without a restraining order of this Court, such activity might occur again."
Loud's ex-wife, Annette C. Bellino, said in an interview that Loud's abuse had sent her to the emergency room several times. She said Loud had smashed her through Sheetrock walls and had suffocated her until she passed out. She took her daughter and ran to Texas to hide from Loud, who she said had threatened to kill her.
In a brief interview, Loud said, "I'm a flawed human being just like you are," and declined to discuss the matter further. "I've never claimed to be perfect, and I'm not proud of every decision I have ever made, but I have learned from those mistakes, and as I have grown into adulthood I have continued to better myself and the community," he said in a statement.
House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, distanced the party from Loud. "Domestic abuse is never, ever acceptable," Thissen said. "It will now be up to the voters in District 2A to decide whether Jerry Loud's service to his country and community and efforts to overcome his past transgressions merit his election to the Minnesota Legislature."
The judge's order stated that Loud "is hereby restrained from assaulting or touching" Bellino, as well as threatening, intimidating, harassing or vilifying her. He was required to abstain from alcohol use during visits with his daughter.
Bellino said she struggled to get Loud to pay child support. In 1997, a judge ordered Loud to pay $6,979 in back child support.
Bellino, who said she is now a minister, said she has forgiven Loud.
Loud's statement, in addition to expressing remorse, touts his achievements: serving a decade in the Navy, volunteering for the Boys and Girls Club Bemidji, teaching and coaching high school students, and working for the Red Lake Nation for nearly 10 years.