Posted at: 10/24/2012 9:08 PM
Updated at: 10/24/2012 10:17 PM
By: Dietrich Nissen
(ABC 6 News) -- St. Charles businessman, Stephen Conlin, is running to be the small town’s mayor, but with less than 2 weeks before the election, he'll have to face drug charges first.
The 53-year-old is one of two people vying to be Mayor of St. Charles, and this week he's in court accused of selling and possessing marijuana.
Because Conlin's on trial in Winona County, we weren't able to speak with him on camera. However, we did talk with him on the phone and he not only says he's innocent, but says he's being set up.
It's been two years since Conlin ran for Saint Charles’ city council. It's also been two years since the Southeast Minnesota Drug Task Force raided his home and business for marijuana.
"It was 11 days before the election last year, or two years ago, when they busted him. And now it's all coming to a head just before this [election]," says Conlin supporter, Teddy Wilkemeyer. At the time, police say they found 17 pounds of marijuana worth $85,000 dollars. Something, Wilkemeyer, doesn't believe really happened.
"He is innocent," she says. "It's wrong and it's all about fixing an elections and trying to keep the corruption in-house and not change things like they need to be changed."
While Conlin fights the charges, his business, the Buzz, sits idle. Only a hand-made sign hints at his decision to run for mayor.
"He's looking to bring infrastructure back to town and cut the debt, and cut the fat and get it back to where it should be in a reasonable manner," says Wilkemeyer.
"I wasn't involved at all in the case, um, so I'm glad that I can keep, uh, my distance from the case," says incumbent St. Charles mayor, Bill Spitzer, who also works as a Winona County sheriff's deputy.
“I separate the roles pretty clearly," says Spitzer. Although most people we spoke with say they plan on voting for Spitzer, he refused to call this race a shoe-in.
"I consider everybody a serious contender," says Spitzer.
Still, Conlin and Wilkemeyer say the scenario boils down to this. It's an officer of the law running against a man accused of selling marijuana.
"[Conlin] is innocent and he's been within the laws the whole time," says Wilkemeyer.
Conlin says he expects the current case to wrap up this Friday. He and Spitzer will face off in debate next Tuesday night.