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Minnesota lawmaker accused of ‘making out’ with fellow legislator won’t run again

RED WING -- One of two Minnesota lawmakers accused of "making out" with a fellow legislator in a Twin Cities suburban park says this will be his last year in the House.

RED WING - One of two Minnesota lawmakers accused of “making out” with a fellow legislator in a Twin Cities suburban park says this will be his last year in the House.

Rep. Tim Kelly, R-Red Wing, said Wednesday that he will leave when his term ends at the beginning of 2017.

“I had actually made the decision not to run the last time around, and then got asked to take one more shot at it,” Kelly said.

Kelly’s decision comes as no surprise after an August incident in which a park ranger said he caught Kelly and Rep. Tara Mack, R-Apple Valley, “making out” in a car parked at a Dakota County park. The incident report said Mack's pants were pulled down.

While Kelly and Mack initially disputed the charges, they eventually paid fines that stemmed from the incident. They apologized to the officer who issued them citations for causing a nuisance.

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There is no word whether Mack plans to run again.

“I have apologized to law enforcement, I’ve paid the citation and I am focused on moving forward,” Mack said in September.

When the incident became public, Kelly and Mack denied the ranger’s version of events.

“When we met, a park ranger approached my vehicle and told me I was double-parked,” Kelly said at the time. “I disputed his characterization and got out of the car to take a picture. He became visibly agitated. ... Approximately 10 minutes later, he returned to my vehicle with a parking ticket citing a nuisance. When I asked what that meant, he responded ‘whatever I want it to mean.’”

Kelly will be in the spotlight in the legislative session that begins March 8 as House transportation chairman. Nearly all state leaders say Minnesota needs billions more dollars in the next few years for highway and other transportation needs, but Democrats and Republicans split on how to fund it.

While Republicans generally strongly oppose the Democratic plan to increase gasoline taxes, Kelly refused to say Monday that a new tax is off the table. As a lame duck lawmaker, he would have less of a reason to fight a tax increase.

Kelly said that making his retirement announcement now opens to the door for prospective Republican candidates to start raising money and campaign and gives them the same opportunity as Democrat Lisa Bayley, a Red Wing City Council member who declared her candidacy in January.

Having become a grandfather for the first time last year, along with having his youngest son graduating from Red Wing High School this May, Kelly said he is looking forward to spending more time with his family.

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Nineteen state lawmakers who started the current two-year session will not return next year. Several have stated they are tired of partisanship. Kelly said that isn’t his reason.

“I never went into it from a real partisan angle,” he said. “I’ve made friends on both sides of the aisle.”

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