Republican Sen. Paul Koering's primary campaign for re-election in Senate District 12 on Wednesday was beset with reports he had dinner at Iven's on the Bay with a gay porn star.
The Minnesota Independent, a website, cited a twitter from Brandon Wilde and an interview in a separate gay porn news website, The Sword. In the Minnesota Independent story Koering was quoted as saying "I don't see anything wrong with going out with him. Do I think that being a porn star is the best thing? No. But that's his choice. I think he's a nice guy."
"If I have to start asking someone for a resume when I go out to dinner with him or lunch, it's pretty sad."
- Paul Koering
Republican state senator from Fort Ripley R-Fort Ripley, responding to reports he had dinner with a gay porn star.
Koering said Wednesday his quotes in the story were accurate.
Wilde was described in the story as the star of "My Brother's Hot Friend" and "Cruiser Boys." The story said Wilde divides his time between Brainerd and West Hollywood, Calif., and that at one time the actor offered escort services on rentboy.com.
Wilde could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Koering said the dinner was not a news story.
"I went to dinner with this guy," Koering said. "His mom is my constituent. I would just say I don't see where the story is. If I have to start asking someone for a resume when I go out to dinner with him, or lunch, it's pretty sad."
He noted that people are trying to find jobs, the economy is bad and a massive oil leak is taking place in the Gulf of Mexico right now.
"And people are worried about who I'm going out to dinner with?" he asked. "Really?"
The report of Koering's dinner drew a response from Tony Sutton, the Minnesota Republican Party chair. The e-mail from Sutton's office had a statement and a link to The Minnesota Independent story.
"Instead of focusing his efforts on job creation and the betterment of Senate District 12, Paul Koering has demonstrated incredibly poor judgment by spending time with an escort and pornographic film star," Sutton's statement said. "With his campaign message of lower taxes, sensible government and economic development, Paul Gazelka is the right leader for Senate District 12, and the Republican Party of Minnesota stands united behind his candidacy."
Gazelka challenged incumbent Koering and was endorsed by Senate
District 12 Republicans. Koering initially sought the endorsement but pulled out of that contest shortly before the convention, stating he would run in the Aug. 10 primary.
Koering, first elected to the Senate in 2002, told the public he was gay in 2005 and was re-elected in 2006. He had no response to Sutton's statement.
"I just don't know what to tell you," he said.
Gazelka, contacted by the Dispatch, said he had mixed emotions regarding the news of Koering's dinner. He said he was surprised, shocked and disappointed.
"One emotion I do not have is glee," he said. "I want to focus on reining in government spending and creating jobs in the private sector."
Gazelka said neither he nor his campaign had any role in spreading the story about Koering.
"No, not at all," he said. "I was very surprised when I first heard about it."
Asked if he thought it was wrong for the senator to have dinner with Wilde, Gazelka said it was inappropriate for any politician to have a date with any porn star.
The former Republican state representative said is focus would not be on this story. He described the situation as a mess Koering created for himself.
The Democratic candidate for Senate District 12, Taylor Stevenson, said his campaign's official stance was not to comment on candidates' personal lives. He said he had just heard of the story shortly before being contacted by the Dispatch and that neither he nor his campaign had any role in spreading the story.
Reports of the website story first came to the Brainerd Dispatch's attention from an e-mail sent by Luke Hellier of Edina. Hellier said he is a Republican but is not working in an official capacity for any campaign this season. He said he worked on Rep. Michelle Bachmann's first congressional campaign in 2006.
"I just saw it today and wanted to pass it along," he said.
Hellier said he had never met Gazelka, Koering's opponent for the Republican spot on the ballot.
"I couldn't even tell you what he looks like," he said.
Hellier's biography in a conservative website named True North said he is a writer and blogger for MinnesotaDemocratsExposed.com. He previously was field staff and political director for Bachmann's campaign. The biography said he sits on the Alumni Board of Directors for St. John's University.
In the website story Wilde was quoted as saying that Koering wants to be president some day and that he would work to make gay marriage legal in Minnesota.
Koering denied that portion of the story in the website story and in a response to a KSTP television reporter.
MIKE O'ROURKE may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5860.
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