Jon Grunseth, the Republican gubernatorial challenger in trouble over reports he swam nude with teen-age girls in 1981, decided to drop out of the race, a source said Thursday. The source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Grunseth would withdraw on the condition that the party's 325-member state central committee name his successor on the ballot.
Grunseth had been running close to Democratic incumbent Rudy Perpich before Oct. 15, when two women charged in sworn statements that Grunseth encouraged them to join him in a nude swim in 1981, when they were 13 and 14.
Grunseth, 44, denied the allegation but had been under increasing pressure from his party to quit the race. He had consistently vowed to remain on the ballot.
Grunseth had scheduled a news conference for 7 p.m. Thursday in Bloomington to announce his plans, but he postponed it later as he huddled with advisers.
The source in the Grunseth camp said Grunseth would throw his support to Cal Ludeman, a Tracy, Minn., farmer and former state legislator who was the Republican candidate for governor in 1986.
The Grunseth partisan said Grunseth does not want to automatically hand the GOP spot on the ballot to Arne Carlson, who launched a write-in campaign on Monday after losing to Grunseth in the Sept. 11 primary.
Grunseth, who considers himself a moderate-conservative, had said Carlson, a leader of the moderate wing of the party, is not acceptable to him as the party's gubernatorial candidate.
Elam Baer, executive director of Grunseth's campaign, met privately with Republican U.S. Sen. Rudy Boschwitz, who said during a swing through southern Minnesota earlier in the day that Republicans can't win the gubernatorial race with both Carlson and Grunseth in the race against Perpich.
"We have a situation where two Republicans are running and one Democrat is running," Boschwitz told reporters. "Our base simply is not big enough to cut it in half."
Carlson was not immediately available for comment. He was en route to Alexandria but canceled the appearance and headed back to the Twin Cities, said his campaign press secretary, Dave Sampsel.
"Until we know officially that Jon is out of the race, we don't have much reaction," Sampsel said. "Up until this point, everyone in the Grunseth campaign has maintained rather steadfastly that Jon was going to stay in the race until the end."
Ray Bohn, Perpich's press secretary, said the governor was not immediately available. He said he did not know if Perpich would comment after Grunseth's news conference.
"We're sitting 12 days away from a general election and we hope in the next few days the Republican Party will clean up its mess and decide who's on the ballot to face Governor Perpich," said Perpich's campaign manager, John Stanoch.