Meet Kerry Gauthier
While everyone holds their breath and waits for Rep. Todd Akin of Missouri to make a final decision about remaining in the Missouri Senate race, there’s another previously obscure representative facing a somewhat similar dilemma: Democrat state legislator Kerry Gauthier of Minnesota.
Gauthier’s story is straightforward enough, and shocking even in a jaded era: the 56-year-old state representative was caught three weeks ago having sex with a 17-year-old boy at a rest stop. According to the New York Daily News, Gauthier found the teen with a “Craigslist ad looking for ‘no strings attached’ sex.”
The boy reportedly lied about his age and told Gauthier he was 18, but even so, he’s still above the age of consent in Minnesota. No money changed hands, and Gauthier is not married, so the only crime committed involved unacceptable behavior at a public rest area. (The police encountered Gauthier because a woman complained about someone urinating on her car.) The Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported that no charges would be filed.
Gauthier originally tried to deflect questions about the incident by claiming it was a “private matter,” but that didn’t work. He ended up checking into the hospital, complaining of breathing problems, as pressure against him mounted. The scandal has evolved to closely resemble Todd Akin’s situation, as the Minnesota Democrat Party (known locally as the DFL) urges Gauthier to step aside, even though he was heavily favored to win re-election. His seat is regarded as crucial for Democrat hopes of retaking the Minnesota House. The House Minority Leader, Paul Thissen, has openly called upon Gauthier to resign from the race, while House Republicans want him to resign his seat immediately.
The situation is made trickier by the timing, as Gauthier handily won his primary election, and the deadlines for replacing him have passed. Alternative candidates would need to run write-in campaigns. The Associated Press reports that at least one such write-in candidate, Duluth city councilor Jay Fosle, has already filed the necessary paperwork.
It’s interesting to consider how candidates can become swiftly radioactive due to actions that cause voters to question their judgment. Todd Akin’s idiotic comments, and Kerry Gauthier’s appalling behavior, don’t directly relate to the functions of the offices they are running for. In Akin’s case, opposing abortion in cases of rape might be tenuously linked to his prospective voting career in the Senate, but that isn’t the part of his comments that got him in hot water. Gauthier’s ability to discharge his duties in the Minnesota House would not be significantly impeded by his (ahem) unusual, but legal, recreational activities. According to the police report, those activities weren’t even particularly time-consuming.
And yet, even though Americans generally profess to have a low opinion of politicians’ ethics, they still insist on standards of conduct that not every official can meet. There’s hope for us yet.
Update: On Wednesday, August 22, Gauthier told a local news station that he refused to drop out of the race. According to an Associated Press report, “he still feels that he’s the best person to represent the district.”