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Gauthier says he'll run for re-election; Dayton urges him not to

Gauthier (right) spoke to KBJR-TV news director Barbara Reyelts (left) on Wednesday, Aug. 22, 2012, on Duluth's Lakewalk. (Video image courtesy of Northland's NewsCenter)

Rep. Kerry Gauthier told the news manager of Northland's NewsCenter that he will run for re-election in House District 7B.

"He said that he understands that he has let his family, friends and constituents down," said Barbara Reyelts, who spoke with Gauthier this morning in an exclusive interview with her. "But he still feels he's the best person to represent his district."

Gauthier did not return a call from the News Tribune seeking comment.

Also today, Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, who said he called Gauthier Sunday, told reporters that the lawmaker should not seek re-election and if he does it will be "destructive" to himself, the party and elected officials. Dayton said he placed a call to Gauthier this morning but had not heard back.

The governor, calling himself a longtime friend of Gauthier, said that if the lawmaker continues to collect a state paycheck, he should be at a Friday special legislative session dealing to approve disaster relief in Duluth and other areas of Minnesota.

Other state DFL and Republican leaders have urged Gauthier to step down after the revelation that he allegedly had sex at the Interstate 35 Thompson Hill rest stop on July 22 with a 17-year-old he met over Craigslist.

The St. Louis County Attorney's office said charges were not warranted in the case because the 17-year-old was of the age of consent in Minnesota.

Reyelts said Gauthier was with labor leaders Alan Netland and Dan O'Neil during the interview this morning, with both saying they supported Gauthier's re-election bid.

"They felt he was the best candidate for labor," Reyelts said.

In part of the interview, which aired on KBJR-TV at noon, Gauthier said: "There are those, particularly in St. Paul, that have publicly asked for my resignation or withdrawal from the race for the House seat 7B. In consultation with my friends and my family, I have decided to let the people of central and West Duluth make that decision, rather than the political power base in St. Paul."

Gauthier now faces write-in challenges from Duluth City Councilor Jay Fosle and Duluth Assistant Fire Chief Erik Simonson, along with Republican Travis Silvers.

Reyelts said Gauthier initially didn't want to talk about the rest stop incident "at all," but later in the interview said he was "ashamed of it and (it was) out of character for him."

"He said he had not embraced that he was a gay man and going forward he will engage in adult behaviors," she said.

Reyelts said Gauthier felt "very badly" for the 17-year-old, and "that's why he didn't want to talk about the situation on Thompson Hill."

Forum Communications State Capital Bureau reporter Don Davis contributed to this report.