ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — State Sen. Amy Koch said Monday that she is sticking with her decision not to seek re-election after engaging in a relationship with a subordinate, despite comments last week that her previous announcement may have been “hasty.”
The former majority leader, who resigned her leadership post last month after fellow senators confronted her about reports of an affair with a Senate employee, told The Associated Press that she hopes she can “close the book” on the scandal that cost the leadership job.
Koch, of Buffalo, spent nearly a year as a high-profile spokeswoman for the Republican agenda at the Capitol, and now faces life as a rank-and-file lawmaker — “one of 67,” she said, referring to the number of senators. After more than a month of seclusion, Koch is preparing to be back in the public eye when the 2012 legislative session begins on Tuesday.
Still, Koch declined to comment on key details that have gone undisclosed. She would not name the employee with whom she had an affair, and declined to express an opinion on how her colleagues handled the events leading to her resignation. Koch, 40, said she is still married but declined to elaborate. She was not wearing a wedding ring.
“I think the work product of the last year speaks here for itself, and it didn’t affect my job performance,” Koch said of the relationship. “It’s very personal and private, and there’s a lot I have to work out. Most people have had some kind of difficulty or pain in their lives, and they know how difficult that is.”
After helping to engineer the first Republican takeover of the state Senate in decades during the 2010 election, Koch became the institution’s first-ever female majority leader. She resigned abruptly Dec. 15, saying she had decided not to seek re-election and felt the caucus would be better led by someone interested in staying in the Senate.
A day later, several of Koch’s colleagues held a news conference to disclose that a group of them had confronted her earlier in the week with allegations of an affair with a male employee under her supervision. His identity has never been revealed publicly.
Even some Republicans have criticized how the matter was handled, both the confrontation and the ensuing news conference. Koch said she and her fellow Republicans hashed out their feelings in a closed-door meeting on Dec. 27, when a new majority leader was elected. They jointly decided not to air grievances in public.
“I’m going to keep my opinions on that to myself,” Koch said.
Some pundits and political watchers have suggested Koch was more harshly treated than a male politician in a similar position would have been.
“I’ve heard that, many people have brought that to my attention — both sides of the aisle, men and women,” Koch said. “I’m just not one to play gender politics, so I don’t think it serves to look back and rehash. I think it’s important to accept what happened and move forward, and so that’s what I’m going to do.”
Koch’s downfall comes at a time when politicians’ private lives are again under scrutiny, most notably with the presidential campaign of Newt Gingrich, who is a contender in the GOP race even after acknowledging past infidelity for which he said he has sought forgiveness. Koch — whose new Capitol office, on a separate floor from her former leadership suite, features a framed picture of her with Gingrich — said politicians have to accept that voters will judge them on their private lives.
“You’re in the public eye and that will happen,” Koch said. “I don’t know whether it’s fair.”
In interviews late last week with the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune and WCCO-TV, Koch noted an outpouring of support in the last month and said her decision not to seek re-election may have been “hasty.” On Monday, she retreated a bit from those comments and said she’s still planning to leave the Senate at end of the year.
“What I said is, people have been very supportive, very kind, and it’s been a little bit overwhelming,” Koch said. “But at this point, my Dec. 15 statement — where I said I was not running — stands.”
Last week, Senate Democratic Leader Tom Bakk said Koch should apologize on the Senate floor for damage she did to the institution. Koch said she felt a Dec. 21 written statement, where she acknowledged the improper relationship and apologized to colleagues, was enough.
“It was very heartfelt, and it was indisputably public, so I would hope that suffices,” Koch said.
At a news conference Monday, state Democratic Party Chairman Ken Martin said he did not believe Koch should face a Senate ethics investigation.
“”It’s not fair to her or her family to be dragged through the mud,” said Martin. “It’s in the past.”
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