Gauthier’s violation of the standard of conduct Minnesotans expect of their elected officials is clear.
Duluth DFL state Rep. Kerry Gauthier may not have broken any law on July 22 when police interrupted his sex act with a 17-year-old behind a highway rest stop. But his violation of the standard of conduct Minnesotans expect of their elected officials is clear. He should resign.
St. Louis County prosecutors have said they would not pursue charges against Gauthier, who met his sex partner after placing an ad on Craigslist. Both the 56-year-old legislator and the 17-year-old told police that the act was consensual and that the young man told Gauthier he was 18.
That age deception provides Gauthier little exoneration in the court of public opinion. Solicitation for sex in a public place with a stranger, male or female, nearly 40 years one’s junior is conduct unbecoming an elected official. That’s why House leaders of both parties, GOP House Speaker Kurt Zellers called on Gauthier to step down, and DFL Minority Leader Paul Thissen urged him not to seek re-election.
A resignation now would come too late to remove Gauthier’s name from the ballot. That situation points to a defect in the state’s election law. But it ought not delay his resignation, nor impede DFL Party efforts to unite behind another candidate. The time remaining until Nov. 6 is sufficient for a well-orchestrated write-in campaign in District 7B.
Gauthier was hospitalized for an undisclosed condition after news of the July 22 incident broke.
One would have to be stone-hearted not to feel some sympathy for him. But this very week is when state assistance for his flood-ravaged district is taking shape at the Capitol. Gauthier’s inability to attend to the public’s business now is telling about his ability to serve effectively in the future. He should step down.