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Swails to divorce husband; they owe $33,000 in taxes

State Rep. Marsha Swails of Woodbury said she is divorcing her husband and is working to repay $33,000 in federal and state income taxes they owe.

Swails told the St. Paul Pioneer Press that she and her husband, Tom, will divorce after 36 years of marriage. They are selling their Woodbury home, which has tax liens against it, to pay off the income taxes. The taxes will be repaid this summer, she said.

Swails refused to discuss the issue with the Woodbury Bulletin, calling it a private matter.

"I really don't want to talk about this," Swails told the Bulletin Wednesday.

A day earlier, Swails told the St. Paul paper that the financial problems date to 2001, when her husband had health problems. He has not worked since. They faced foreclosure in 2007 and 2009, but she paid debts with retirement savings. She said she made a mistake by not being more "hands-on" with their finances, according to the story.

Swails, a Democrat, is running for re-election this fall. She represents House District 56B, which includes most of Woodbury. An English teacher at Woodbury High School, Swails said she will continue campaigning for a third two-year House term.

Swails told the Pioneer Press that she came forward with her news because she wanted to be up front with her constituents and did not want them to hear about it from the Republican Party or her GOP opponent, fellow Woodbury resident Andrea Kieffer.

In an interview, Kieffer said she was surprised by the news about Swails. Kieffer called it "sad" and said she had no plans to run a negative campaign.

"I'm not even focused on Marsha," Kieffer said. "I'm focused on jobs and the economy."

After the initial story about Swails' personal problems surfaced, the Senate District 56 Republican Party posted an item about it on the party's website. The GOP noted the divorce and said the unpaid taxes are the "larger problem."

Swails referred all questions from her hometown newspaper to a Minnesota House Democratic staffer. Communications specialist Charlene Briner said Swails "has said everything that she cares to say about this personal and private matter."