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State Rep. John Kriesel explains why he’s leaving Legislature

The Republican, who became a political rock star, says his decision is personal and not political.

State Rep. John Kriesel

In one term, state Rep. John Kriesel made an impact.

The effort of that service is part of the reason the Republican announced Thursday that he won’t seek a second term representing his Cottage Grove district.

“It’s the right choice for my family,” he said.

Coming from an Iraqi war veteran who lost both his legs and who spent months away from his wife and sons, now 10 and 11, in rehabilitation, it was no cliché excuse.

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“I was away from them 24 months in total. I missed a lot of their lives,” he said.  “It bothered them. They never really spoke about it but they wanted me not to run.”

Kriesel was firm in saying the decision was personal and not political. He became a political rock star during the 2010 legislative session with an emotional speech on House floor decrying a bill to put a constitutional amendment on the November ballot to define marriage as a union between a man and a woman. He was one of only three Republicans to vote against the bill, which prevailed. (Minneapolis-St. Paul Business Journal recently named him as one of its “40 under 40” honorees for his work in the Legislature.)

Soon after the marriage amendment debate,  there were suggestions that he would be challenged in a Republican primary, but he said he never had concerns on that front.

“I was very comfortable with my re-election campaign,” he said. “Last month I had my website revamped so that I would be ready.”

But in the end, he said, he made a decision not to run again because of his family.   He said his wife, Katie, a logistics consultant on food exports, had neglected her career for too long. “She came up to Walter Reed and spent all that time by my side and put her career goals on hold so I could reach my dream. It’s her turn to shine,” he said.

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Kriesel is a marketing contractor for the National Guard, another job that takes time and effort, he said.  That job, his family and his friends, he said, will be his center of attention in the future.

He also said he intends to make his last weeks in the Legislature productive: “My focus is on the Vikings stadium to pass and also to pass my fireworks bill, whose next stop is on the House floor.” That bill would allow the sale in Minnesota of the same fireworks that are legal in Wisconsin, a change he said would be an economic boost in jobs and revenue.

Kriesel won’t rule out running again but predicts it will be a long time before he considers another campaign.

“I want to concentrate on being a good friend and a good dad,” he said. “There’s only so many baseball games in their lives that I will get to go to.”