Minn. lawmaker in rest-stop scandal still silent

Associated Press

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota state lawmaker involved in a sex scandal involving a 17-year-old boy at a rest stop maintained his public silence Tuesday as another Democratic candidate for his seat emerged.

Rep. Kerry Gauthier, a Democrat from Duluth, has yet to comment on the scandal or his political plans, though Democratic leaders are urging him to withdraw from the race and Republicans have pressed him to resign immediately. Meanwhile, Duluth firefighter Erik Simonson launched a bid as a write-in Democratic candidate for Gauthier's seat at the Duluth Zoo on Tuesday.

Gauthier didn't immediately return a voice mail message from The Associated Press.

Authorities have said Gauthier, 56, admitted having a liason with the boy. They say he won't be charged in the July incident because the boy was older than 16, the legal age of consent, and no money was exchanged.

The scandal has called a reliably Democratic seat into question as Democrats try to regain control of the House by winning at least six more seats in November. Democratic House Minority Leader Paul Thissen and Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Chairman Ken Martin on Monday called on Gauthier to withdraw from the race.

Thissen said he is looking at state law for a way to replace Gauthier on the ballot if Gauthier formally withdraws from the race.

"I think that would be the fairest thing for the people of Duluth," Thissen said.

Gauthier may have to break his silence as soon as Friday, when the Minnesota Legislature is expected to meet in special session to vote on a flood relief package for Duluth and other communities hit by June flash floods. Parts of Gauthier's district sustained extensive damage, and he had been an outspoken supporter of the state aid before the scandal became public.

The leader of the local Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party said party activists would like to hear from Gauthier about his political plans. Senate District 7 DFL Chairman John Schwetman said the party is looking into its options but would prefer an announcement from the first-term incumbent, who received the party's endorsement in March.

"We're all waiting to hear what Rep. Gauthier chooses to do," Schwetman said.

Simonson, an assistant fire chief and president of the local firefighters union, said he is assuming Gauthier won't remain in the race. Simonson told AP he informed Gauthier of his plan to run for the seat but Gauthier gave no indication of his own plans.

"I wanted to let him know what was happening before he heard about it on the news," Simonson said.

Duluth City Councilor Jay Fosle has also filed paperwork to run as a write-in candidate.

Republican Travis Silvers is already on the ballot.

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