The Republican candidate for state auditor issued a news release Monday afternoon alleging that private e-mails between himself and a woman he had a relationship with while she was going through a divorce were released in an unauthorized fashion. 

Randy Gilbert is the GOP challenger to incumbent DFL State Auditor Rebecca Otto in November. He was mayor of Long Lake from 2005 to 2010 and now works as an auditor for Assurance Consulting 3. 

In the statement, Gilbert said he was contacted two weeks ago by a media outlet "inquiring about private and personal details regarding a past relationship." He said the relationship ended more than two years ago. 

"This is a private matter unrelated to my race for State Auditor, and I will continue focusing on informing voters why I'm the best candidate for this office," Gilbert wrote. He did not return a follow-up call seeking further comment. 

Gilbert won the Republican Party endorsement in the auditor's race last May, and last month he won the party primary. 

Republican Party chairman Keith Downey said Tuesday morning that the party was standing behind Gilbert. 

"We need Randy Gilbert, a professional accountant, as our Minnesota State Auditor, not a liberal politician," Downey said in a statement provided by the party's press secretary. "And the question of how someone illegally obtained his private emails to distract from the issues of the race is troubling." 

Jeff Johnson, the GOP's candidate for governor, also said at an unrelated news conference Tuesday morning that he is still backing Gilbert.