Despite calls to step aside, Rep. Kerry Gauthier, DFL-Duluth, has decided to run for re-election. The Northland's News Center reports that Gauthier told them in an interview today that he wants the voters to decide his future.
That decision puts the first term lawmaker at odds with DFL House Minority Leader Paul Thissen and DFL Party Chair Ken Martin, who have encouraged Gauthier not to run for re-election after he admitted to police that he had sexual contact with a 17 year-old boy at a rest stop in Duluth. Gauthier was not charged or arrested, because the St. Louis County Attorney said the age of consent in Minnesota is 16, and no money changed hands. Nevertheless the political reaction has been swift. On Friday, GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers called on Gauthier to resign immediately. Since then two Democrats have announced write-in campaigns for the District 7B seat.
Gauthier has not made any public comments since the incident became public last week. He has not returned calls to MPR News.
The news that he intends to continue campaigning comes as Democrats are hoping to retake control of the Legislature. DFL leaders and candidates across Minnesota may now have to answer whether they support Gauthier's candidacy.
House Minority Leader Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, issued a statement criticizing Gauthier's decision.
"Rep. Gauthier's conduct last month was clearly beneath what's expected of an elected official," Thiseen wrote. "I do not support his decision to continue his re-election effort and the House DFL Caucus will not be supporting his campaign."
Minnesota DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin also weighed in with a statement.
"The Minnesota DFL Party does not support Kerry Gauthier's decision to seek re-election," Martin wrote. "We have repeatedly asked Gauthier to end his campaign and give Duluth DFLers a chance to choose a new candidate they can unite behind. Gauthier's conduct was inexcusable and he has lost the public trust. He should exit the race immediately. He will receive no assistance from the state DFL Party, and we are strongly encouraging the local party leaders to rescind his endorsement."