ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Democratic state lawmaker confronted by authorities over reports that he had oral sex with a 17-year-old boy at a Minnesota rest stop faced calls Monday from party leaders to withdraw from a re-election campaign.
Rep. Kerry Gauthier, 56, has not been charged in the July incident. Police say the teenager responded to the lawmaker’s Craigslist ad for “no strings attached” sex. Gauthier admitted to the liaison, according to police reports that were made public late last week.
Democratic Rep. Paul Thissen of Minneapolis, the House Minority Leader, said he was “deeply disappointed” in Gauthier’s conduct and wants him to step aside.
“As I shared with Rep. Gauthier, I believe he should withdraw from the race for re-election,” Thissen said in a statement released by his office.
Less than an hour later, state Democratic Party Chairman Ken Martin echoed Thissen’s comments and sought his withdrawal. Both Democrats stopped short of asking Gauthier to leave office before his term ends in January.
“His actions inexcusable,” Martin said. “No one in our party condones what he did, nor will we defend him in this matter.”
Gauthier hasn’t commented to reporters on the incident. A call to his cellphone rolled to voicemail on Monday. Thissen’s statement said he expects the lawmaker to “address these issues publicly and soon.”
He had been hospitalized for an undisclosed condition until this weekend, which prompted Thissen to wait to seek his departure. House Speaker Kurt Zellers, a Republican, on Friday urged Gauthier to resign.
Authorities said Gauthier wouldn’t be charged because the boy was older than 16, the legal age of consent. No money was exchanged over the encounter.
Gauthier was elected in 2010 with 73 percent of the vote.
His troubles in a reliably Democratic district could make it harder for Democrats as they try to regain control of the House. They are scraping for every seat they can get and can ill-afford to lose what had been a sure thing.
If Gauthier does go, his party might need a write-in effort to compete for the seat.
Duluth City Councilor Jay Fosle has already filed paperwork to run as a write-in candidate against Gauthier and Republican nominee Travis Silver.
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