Reporting Pat Kessler
MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO/AP) – The Minnesota Representative who admitted to engaging in rest-stop sex acts with a 17-year-old boy said Wednesday afternoon that he will not seek re-election – a statement contrary to what the lawmaker had been saying all day.
Rep. Kerry Gauthier, 56, made his decision shortly before 5 p.m., saying the political fallout was too great and that it was too difficult on him emotionally and psychologically. He also said he’s thinking of resigning from the Legislature.
“I need to address my issues first and consider the effects of my behavior on my family and friends,” Gauthier told WCCO-TV’s Pat Kessler.
Earlier in the day, reports said otherwise. Gauthier was reported as saying he wanted the people in his district to decide his political future.
But Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton – among others in the party – asked him not to run for re-election. One Democrat, Rep. Tom Huntley, said he considers Gauthier a child molester.
House DFL Leader Paul Thissen also issued a statement saying the Caucus would not support Gauthier if he ran again.
Gauthier made headlines earlier this month after an investigation found he had engaged in oral sex with a teenager in July. He met the teen at a rest stop after the boy responded to a Craigslist ad asking for no-strings-attached sex. Gauthier was not charged in the incident, because the teen was over the age of consent and no money was exchanged.
“I know I made a mistake and am determined to make amends as best I can,” Gauthier said. “I know I am a better person than the incident would portray me.”
When asked if he had ever engaged in similar behavior, Gauthier gave no comment. He also said he would not discuss details of the incident so as to protect the identity of the boy with whom he acted.
In a written statement, Gauthier said he is a gay man and has known that since college. He also said he is chemically dependent, and admits to taking “an overdose of pills to not feel any pain” after the incident became public.
After his sexuality was made public, however, Gauthier says he now feels free.
According to Dayton, his decision not to support Gauthier had nothing to do with his sexuality.
“It’s not about whether it is a same sex or heterosexual act,” the governor said. “It would be the same if the circumstances involved heterosexual conduct.”
Gauthier said he will not be at the Capitol Friday for a special session of the Legislature to approve disaster aid for the flood-stricken Duluth district he represents.
He said it would not be “in the best interest of [his] constituents.”
State election officials have said Gauthier can’t be replaced on the ballot, which would mean a write-in campaign for a replacement that would be much harder to win. Duluth firefighter Erik Simonson launched a bid as a write-in Democratic candidate for Gauthier’s seat Tuesday. Duluth City Councilor Jay Fosle also has filed paperwork to run as a write-in candidate. Republican Travis Silvers already is on the ballot.
Sen. Roger Reinert, a Democrat who shares a district with Gauthier, said the withdrawal was “absolutely the right decision.”
When asked why he changed his mind, Gauthier said, “I’ve been going back and forth all day.”
In response to Gauthier’s decision to quite the race, DFL Chair Ken Martin released a statement saying: “We are grateful that Rep. Gauthier has chosen to do the right thing and end his bid for re-election. This has been a very difficult ordeal for our party, our legislative leaders and certainly for Rep. Gauthier and others involved in this tragic situation.”
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