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Practically everyone tells Rep. Gauthier: ‘Leave’

DFL mayors attack Voter ID; Duluth gets first gay bar; Supreme Court nominee’s impressive resumé; swine flu worries; and more.

You never want to get too far ahead of the story. But I think it is safe to say DFL Rep. Kerry Gauthier’s days as a legislator are numbered. Everyone short of your local barista is calling for Gauthier to quit. At MPR, Dan Kraker writes: “Duluth City Councilman Jay Fosle and Duluth Assistant Fire Chief Erik Simonson both say they will run as write-in candidates to replace Gauthier. Gauthier has not said whether he will stay in the race. The head of the state GOP has called on him to resign, while DFL chair Ken Martin has asked Gauthier to not seek a second term.   Simonson said that it is tough to launch a campaign amid that backdrop. ‘But we’ve got to keep in mind the bigger picture and we’ve got to move forward, we can’t just sweep it under the rug and hope it goes away,’ Simonson said.”

Heck, even the Strib editorial board wants him gone: “Solicitation for sex in a public place with a stranger, male or female, nearly 40 years one’s junior is conduct unbecoming an elected official. That’s why House leaders of both parties, GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers called on Gauthier to step down, and DFL Minority Leader Paul Thissen urged him not to seek re-election. … One would have to be stone-hearted not to feel some sympathy for him. But this very week is when state assistance for his flood-ravaged district is taking shape at the Capitol. Gauthier’s inability to attend to the public’s business now is telling about his ability to serve effectively in the future. He should step down.”

To no one’s surprise, the towns’ two DFL mayors took another swing at the GOP’s Voter ID bill. Tim Pugmire at MPR reports: “During a state Capitol news conference today, mayors Chris Coleman of St. Paul and R.T. Rybak of Minneapolis warned that the proposed change in state election law will be expensive for their cities. They also claim it will restrict the rights of many eligible voters. The mayor of St. Paul offered numerous adjectives describing the effort to require all eligible Minnesotans to show photo identification in order to vote. Within just a couple of minutes, Mayor Chris Coleman said the amendment is terrible, unnecessary, restrictive, cynical and wrongheaded. Coleman is also concerned about the cost to his city, which he estimated at $870,000 just for first-year implementation.” Hey, if it stops even one guy from writing in “Jeff Lebowski” for president, it’ll be worth it.

It’ll be a surprise to the next Albanian sailor who stops in for a beer … or not. Candace Renalls in the Duluth News Tribune says: “lvin Berg and Vince Nelson made history three weeks ago by opening Duluth’s first gay bar. ‘No one ever had the gumption to do it before,’ Nelson said. ‘But Duluth has changed in the last few (mayoral) administrations. A lot has changed in Duluth.’ People in general are more open-minded today, they say. So the two men, who have owned and operated the Flame Nightclub on Tower Avenue in Superior for six years, opened a Duluth version July 29 at 22-28 N. First Ave. W. in downtown Duluth. Duluth Mayor Don Ness is supportive. ‘I’d like to think that as a community we are beyond making an issue of whether or not it’s a gay bar,’ Ness said. ‘It just seems like a very old-fashioned debate. Of course we welcome this business to Duluth.’ ” … Because Duluth just plain needs new bars, dang it.
Small consolation. Charges are being filed against the 21-year-old driver of the truck that hit and killed three generations of an Eden Prairie family. Jenna Ross at the Strib says: “Paul Wickenhauser of Cokato, Minn., told officers that he had been drinking the night of the crash, according to the criminal complaint. They found a broken rum bottle in the road, an open bottle of liquor in the cab of his pickup truck and a case of beer in the back. Michelle Hoffman, her 8-year-old daughter Julia and 5-year-old son Jason were riding with Hoffman’s mother-in-law, Marta Stoffers, 68, near Willmar when the truck crashed head-on into their minivan. Officers found the van on fire in a ditch just after 9 p.m., according to the complaint. … According to the complaint issued on Monday, when officers came upon the crash scene, Wickenhauser ‘was pacing back and forth and his hands and arms were shaking violently.’ He told officers he started drinking at home at about 5 p.m. that night, and had about five 12-ounce beers before 7:15 p.m. A preliminary breath test gave a reading of 0.07.”

Quite the resumé for the state’s new Supreme Court justice. Jim Ragsdale’s Strib story says: “Gov. Mark Dayton on Monday chose Judge Wilhelmina Wright, whose legal education began when her mother fought on her behalf to desegregate schools in Virginia, to be the Minnesota Supreme Court’s first black woman. … Wright, of St. Paul, is the daughter of department heads at Norfolk State University in Virginia, attended Yale and Harvard Law School and worked in private practice in Washington, D.C., before coming to the U.S. attorney’s office in Minnesota, where [David] Lillehaug was her boss.”

As a friend of mine likes to say … often … “Has the whole world gone mad?” Case in point, the thought of a State Fair without the Swine Barn and the state’s biggest pig. I mean, come on! Maura Lerner and Curt Brown at the Strib say: “A new strain of influenza passing from pigs to humans has at least one infectious disease expert calling on state officials to close the swine exhibits at the Minnesota State Fair, which begins on Thursday. Michael Osterholm, of the University of Minnesota, said that the number of pig-to-human infections has been ‘unprecedented’ this year. And because viruses can change when they cross species, it could set the stage for a major public health threat if people mingle with sick pigs. ‘If anything, we’re tempting fate,’ he said Monday.” I think fate is already tempted by the ambient levels of trans fat out there.

Construction has finished to the point that I-94 through St.Paul will return to normal this week. Frederick Melo of the PiPress says: “The inner lanes of Interstate 94 between Lexington Parkway and Dale Street in St. Paul will reopen in both directions by early Wednesday. The lanes closed July 23 for the reconstruction of the center pier of the Chatsworth Street pedestrian bridge. The left and center lanes of both eastbound and westbound I-94 will close temporarily at 8 p.m. Tuesday for crews to remove equipment. Several short-term, non-rush-hour lane closures will be scheduled between Aug. 30 and Nov. 15 for finish work. Drivers traveling along the interstate between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul will also notice real-time travel alerts as part of new ‘Smart Lane’ technology, signage suspended over I-94 lanes that displays notices about crashes, merges, closed lanes and other advisories.” Fine. Just get Cell Phone Sheila out of the left lane and out of my way.

And what do our premier conservative pundits think of the Todd Akin “legitimate rape” fiasco? At Power Line, John Hinderaker writes: “Here’s the problem I have with Akin: it is not unusual for a candidate to use an infelicitous phrase in the course of making what is essentially a valid point. When that happens, we almost always defend the candidate. Here, however, Akin went on a rambling, offensive riff in support of a point that was wrong and stupid. Not to mention completely needless: every sentence uttered by a Republican candidate that does not include the words “unemployment,” “jobs” or “economy” is a waste of time, or worse. No one wants to hear a Senate candidate’s ruminations on biology — no one except the Democrats who supported Akin and helped him to get the GOP nomination because they saw him as a weak candidate. … Here in Minnesota, we recently had the non-story of Democratic legislator Kerry Gauthier, who was caught getting oral sex from a 17-year-old boy at a highway rest stop. Traditionally that would have merited not just disapprobation, but pretty severe punishment. No longer … That’s the world we live in; Republicans expect more from their elected representatives than Democrats do. But that’s not all. Republicans will win big in November if voters focus on the issues, pre-eminently the economy. The Democrats can’t defend their records in office, so their only hope is distraction.” Did he just say the Democrats are responsible for Todd Akin?