Minnesota House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt on Wednesday spoke widely to the media for the first time about his brush with the law in Montana last fall and its political fallout.
"I don’t know that necessarily it was that big of a deal," Daudt, R-Crown, said. "But I don’t always get to decide that, I guess."
Last September, according to Daudt and public records, Daudt and a 24-year-old friend drove to Montana to buy a vintage Ford Bronco. After picking up the vehicle, Daudt and the seller differed about the Bronco's condition.
Daudt said the seller, Brock Roy, became "verbally aggressive" and shoved Daudt’s friend, Daniel Benjamin Weinzetl. Asked on Wednesday what Roy said, Daudt would not repeat it.
"There are pending legal issues out there and I was a witness to what happened so I don’t want to get into a he-said-this, she-said-that," Daudt said.
Daudt said that he told Weinzetl, who was also agitated, to get into Daudt's nearby car. Instead, Weinzetl returned to the car and picked up Daudt's loaded handgun and pointed it toward Roy and his family, according to court records.
"My buddy displayed the handgun and it was out for probably two seconds and I literally was between the two of them," Daudt said.
Roy's family later called the Montana police, who quickly caught up with Daudt and Weinzetl, and arrested them both. Weinzetl was charged with three felonies in the incident. Daudt was not charged with a crime.
Daudt said that he did not approve of Weinzetl's showing up with the gun and didn't even know that Weinzetl knew where it was kept. Daudt said he had it in a small compartment under a seat in his car and had put it there just because he was on a 14-hour road trip to Montana.
"I do not drive around with a gun in my car," Daudt said.
Daudt said that he knows Weinzetl because his family lives near Daudt's cabin. The two-term House member said that Weinzetl and his brother occasionally help him with manual tasks around the cabin and he sometimes gets together with the family for a "beer around the campfire three four times a summer."
"We don’t necessarily hang out socially together or anything like that," Daudt said. "They’ve basically been basically helpful neighbor kids."
Daudt, 40, said he didn't tell the entire House Republican caucus about the incident or speak about to the media, either after it happened of in the last two weeks after KSTP-TV first reported it, because he wasn't the one who was charged with anything.
"I’m certainly not trying to hide anything," he said on Wednesday.
The Star Tribune has worked to reach him for comment multiple times since news of the incident first broke. Until Wednesday, he did not make himself available.
On Tuesday, local leaders in his House district planned to take a vote of no confidence in Daudt's leadership. Several had said they were disappointed that he did not reach out to them in the wake of the Montana incident and thought he was not leading as the fiscal conservative they thought he was.
Daudt, however, showed up for their Tuesday evening meeting and answered their questions. He stayed through the whole two hour meeting. The district leaders' executive council did not take their planned vote.
"I think the thing last night had less to do with the Montana stuff than it was voting stuff...I come from a very very conservative (district) and they have expectations of their members," Daudt said.
He said he did not have a "conscious thought" not to reach out to them once the Montana issue first broke.
"I think they were happy that I spent time with them last night," Daudt said."I also get tugged at from every corner of the state and I am very very busy and while I try to keep in touch with them as much as I can. It’s sometimes not as much as I’d like."