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DFL leaders call on Rep. Gauthier to give up re-election bid

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen and DFL Chair Ken Martin are the latest critics of Gauthier’s behavior.

Rep. Kerry Gauthier

The top DFL House leader and the head of the party on Monday called on Rep. Kerry Gauthier to drop his re-election campaign after reports surfaced about the Duluth DFLer’s sexual encounter last month.

Gauthier, who has not been charged, admitted engaging in consensual oral sex with a 17-year-old boy at a highway rest stop, police said.

House Minority Leader Paul Thissen said that over the weekend he visited the legislator, who has not publicly commented on the matter, and conveyed concern from DFLers over Gauthier’s actions.

Gauthier was admitted to the hospital last Wednesday with what Thissen called “a serious health condition,” but he was released Saturday.

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“I am deeply disappointed with Rep. Kerry Gauthier’s conduct that has been reported over the last several days,” Thissen said in a statement. “The conduct was wrong and no one in the DFL House Caucus condones the behavior.”

DFL Party Chair Ken Martin, who refused to address the issue with reporters on Friday, also called on Gauthier to drop his re-election bid Monday.

“We have waited long enough for this situation to be resolved, and it is with immense disappointment that I join my DFL colleagues in asking Rep. Gauthier not to seek re-election,” Martin said in a statement. “The people of Duluth deserve a representative who will stand up for their interests, without the sort of distractions that Rep. Gauthier has caused through exceedingly poor judgment.”

Gauthier has been roundly criticized for the lack of transparency that’s accompanied his actions. The July incident prompted a prolonged media battle to gain public access to police records.

Thissen said he “expects” Gauthier to address the issue soon.

But, for some Republicans, simply calling for Gauthier not to run is not be enough.

“Thissen did not go as far as House Speaker Kurt Zellers, R-Maple Grove, who Friday evening called on Gauthier to resign,” Capitol Chatter reports.

“I believe we have given Rep. Gauthier and the Democrat caucus a respectful amount of time to address this situation on their own,” Zellers said in his statement. “Rep. Gauthier’s actions are not becoming of a member of the House of Representatives, and today I am calling on him to resign from the Legislature.”

DFL Duluth City Councilman Jay Fosle has started a write-in campaign against Gauthier and his Republican opponent Travis Silver. The district is considered a DFL stronghold.