ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) -

Minnesota Democrats have gotten a lifeline in their efforts to hang on to a Duluth-area legislative seat after a disgraced Democratic lawmaker quit his re-election bid.

The Minnesota Supreme Court on Tuesday granted the party's request to have Rep. Kerry Gauthier's name scrubbed from the ballot. He dropped out of a re-election race for a Duluth seat after having a sexual encounter with a 17-year-old boy.

The ruling is a boost to Democrats, who feared they would have to resort to a write-in effort to preserve a reliable seat. Democrats can ill-afford to lose a safe seat in their bid to retake the Minnesota House majority.

Gauthier will be replaced by Erik Simonson, a Duluth assistant fire chief. He faces Republican Travis Silvers.