Mark Stenglein dropped out of this year's Hennepin County commissioner race Monday, after a serious head injury in April jeopardized his bid to rejoin the board he served on for 15 years.
Stenglein, 62, was the best-known candidate vying for the District 2 seat held by retiring Commissioner Linda Higgins. Still in the race are Irene Fernando, co-founder of a youth leadership nonprofit in Minneapolis, and community activist and Iyob Waldsmayate, who is a federal employee with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Fernando received the DFL endorsement last month.
Additional candidates could emerge before the filing period ends Tuesday.
"In light of my recent injury and the time and attention needed for a full recovery, I am ending my campaign for Hennepin County Commissioner," Stenglein said in a statement to the Star Tribune Monday.
He fell in his driveway while getting out of a car in mid-April, which required brain surgery. At the time, his wife, Lynette Wittsack, said he planned on resuming his campaign and that he was otherwise in good health.
On Monday, he said he has always given 100 percent effort to his campaigns in the past. "Unfortunately, my situation will not allow me to perform to my expectations on the campaign trail this time around," he said.
The filing deadline for the election is 5 p.m. Tuesday. Fernando and Waldsmayate are candidates of color, so the winner could become the first nonwhite commissioner in Hennepin County history. There are also two other candidates of color running in the other two open seats this year.
Fernando declined to comment about Stenglein's decision to leave the race. Waldsmayate couldn't be reached for comment.
Kim Ellison, a Minneapolis school board member, was also a candidate for District 2, which includes Golden Valley, Plymouth and St. Anthony. She hasn't filed for the race since losing the DFL endorsement.
Stenglein had served as county commissioner from 1997 to 2012. He was an early supporter of the county's plan to subsidize construction of Target Field. The ballpark opened in 2010. He has also been a supporter of light rail and commuter rail.
After leaving office, Stenglein worked for the Minneapolis Downtown Council.
Wittsack said Monday that her husband didn't want to respond to questions about his health or whether he will endorse a candidate for Higgins' seat. He hadn't received any campaign contributions this year, according to the county's website.
Going forward, Stenglein said in his statement, he needs to spend all of his energy recovering and enjoying time with his family before returning to his consulting business and volunteer activities.
"It has been a humbling experience to receive so many kind messages from so many of my friends and supporters," he said. "Thank you for all your good wishes. I hope to be up and about in the very near future."