A South Washington County school board candidate who was blasted by some online commenters after posting a photo of himself in a “Borat”-style swimsuit on Facebook said the whole thing was a joke.

The photo, first posted on Raj Gandhi’s Facebook page in 2009, shows him smiling at the camera and giving the thumbs up sign, while wearing a revealing lime green swimsuit. It resurfaced Sept. 27 on the Facebook page of the Washington County Watchdog, which touts itself as “a place where concerned taxpayers can get informed and inform others.” The post has since drawn nearly 150 comments.

 “The background of the picture is that my wife's uncle bought this and dared me to wear it for a big family picture. I couldn't wear it for the family picture but was being a sport to put it on for one picture and a laugh,” Gandhi wrote in response to the original post.

The Washington County Watchdog post read: “Above is a photo post that Raj Gandhi's added to his own profile. The Watchdog finds this interesting since he's a candidate for school board in South Washington Schools (District 833) and his campaign Facebook page has as one of the initial comments the post regarding school district dress code.”

As the story began to gain attention, people began to respond in defense of Gandhi.

A Facebook user named Debbie Flick wrote: “Lighten up people. Looks like this was taken in 2009. Many lessons have been learned since them(sic) about what you post on Facebook. So a young husband plays along with his wife's uncle and lets them take a stupid photo. Don't know this guy, he may, or may not be a good candidate for school board but this photo is meaningless in the scheme of things except he has a sense of humor.”

Another wrote that the photo was, “(h)ardly disqualifying, to put it mildly.”

Eric Langness, the administrator who initially posted the photo of Gandhi, defended his action by saying that he was only trying to inform parents and children, and had no intention to smear Gandhi.

“We certainly welcome traffic to the page but my goal as an admin is helping others make decisions on politics, candidates and informing them in an open and transparent manner,” Langness wrote. The Pioneer Press reported that he is a former Republican candidate for the District 29 state Senate seat who had once served on the Forest Lake school board.

Several commenters said the photo has no bearing on whether they would vote for Gandhi, one of 17 candidates who filed to run for five open seats in the Nov. 5 school board election.