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Rep. Gauthier to continue campaign — but with no help from DFL or legislative colleagues

DFLers further cut ties Wednesday after the Duluth Democrat’s announcement.

Rep. Kerry Gauthier

DFLers are further cutting ties with Rep. Kerry Gauthier after the Duluth Democrat said Wednesday that he’d continue his re-election campaign, despite calls from the party officials and top lawmakers for him to exit the race.

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

Republicans and Democrats alike have sharply criticized Gauthier, insisting that he end his campaign or resign from the Legislature.

Party Chair Ken Martin and House Minority Leader Paul Thissen announced on Wednesday that Gauthier wouldn’t be receiving any support from the party organization or the House DFL caucus, and Gov. Mark Dayton also told reporters at midday that the freshman representative should end his campaign.

“The Minnesota DFL Party does not support Kerry Gauthier’s decision to seek re-election,” Martin said in a statement. “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,” Martin added. “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.”

Duluth City Council Member Jay Fosle and a Duluth assistant fire chief, Erik Simonson, have started write-in campaigns against Gauthier and his Republican opponent, Travis Silver. The district is considered a DFL stronghold.

“Rep. Gauthier’s conduct last month was clearly beneath what’s expected of an elected official,” Thissen said in a statement. “I do not support his decision to continue his re-election effort and the House DFL Caucus will not be supporting his campaign.”

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There’s at least one piece of unfinished business for all lawmakers, including Gauthier: Friday’s special legislative session for flood relief in Northeast Minnesota. The beleaguered lawmaker, who was hospitalized over the weekend, skipped a hearing on the subject last week.

Dayton suggested Gauthier should attend the special session, but Gauthier has remained in private since the incident became publicly known. It appears he gave an exclusive interview to Northland’s NewsCenter, which was published Wednesday.

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.

It’s unclear if he’ll attend the special session.