ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota Democrat who had a rest-stop sexual encounter with a 17-year-old boy dropped his re-election bid Wednesday, hours after declaring he would stay in the race in defiance of party leaders who wanted him out as they fight to regain control of the state Legislature.
Rep. Kerry Gauthier, 56, told The Associated Press the decision was his own after multiple conversations with Democratic leaders pressing him to withdraw. He said he has been going back and forth about running “every 20 minutes for a week.”
“I changed my mind,” he said. “Too much. It’s just too much.”
Gauthier also told the AP that an overdose of muscle relaxants he took last week that led to his hospitalization was a suicide attempt. He’d earlier issued a statement saying he has been in recovery from chemical dependency for 30 years with one relapse.
The first-term Duluth legislator also said Wednesday afternoon that he won’t attend a Friday special session to vote on a flood relief package after his district was one of the hardest-hit by June flash floods. Gauthier had pushed hard for state aid until he dropped out of public view when the scandal hit last week.
“I just think it would be a distraction for the city to get what it needs from the special session,” Gauthier said.
Gauthier’s decision came after Democratic leaders from Gov. Mark Dayton on down urged him to step aside so the party could field another candidate in a reliably Democratic district. Democrats need to gain at least six House seats to take control of the chamber, a top goal in November.
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.
Sen. Roger Reinert, a Democrat who shares a district with Gauthier, said the withdrawal was “absolutely the right decision.”