Tim Bommel / Missouri House of Representatives via AP
Friday, Feb. 19, 2016 | 4:33 p.m.
JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — A St. Louis-area legislator who recently resigned from the Missouri House says he quit under pressure because word of his extramarital affair was spreading around the Capitol.
Republican Rep. Don Gosen told The Associated Press on Friday that he had been involved in a relationship that "went awry" with a woman from southeast Missouri, and the married father of three said he now is focused on healing his family and moving on.
When he resigned Wednesday, Gosen had said only that there were rumors about "some personal issues."
Gosen said he first heard other people talking about his affair on Monday, and he resigned after being asked to do so by House Speaker Todd Richardson. Though Gosen said he respected Richardson's request, he said he believes he was treated more severely because of increased scrutiny on Missouri lawmakers' behavior. He's the third lawmaker to resign under pressure in the past year.
Last May, then-House Speaker John Diehl resigned after acknowledging he exchanged sexually charged text messages with a Capitol intern. A few months later, Democratic Sen. Paul LeVota resigned after being accused of sexually harassing interns, which he denied.
"I think this was something that in a different time, in another day, maybe wasn't as big of an issue from the government standpoint," Gosen said. "I mean, it's a huge issue from a family standpoint, no matter... what the circumstances are. It's a huge issue."
In his statement announcing Gosen's resignation, Richardson said he would not let the actions of a few lawmakers define the entire body, though he declined to elaborate on Gosen's actions.
"I have an obligation to the House of Representatives and to our caucus," Richardson said Thursday.
Richardson has made ethics reform a centerpiece of his legislative agenda. Among the first bills to pass his chamber were measures banning lobbyist gifts and creating a waiting period before lawmakers can become lobbyists. Gosen says he supported those measures.
Gosen didn't identify the woman with whom he had been involved, but he said she was not a government employee or a lobbyist.
"It wasn't just a sexual affair," he said. "This was a relationship between two people."
Missouri's capital culture has been criticized because of its mix of unlimited lobbyist gifts and campaign contributions, as well as a social calendar that features alcohol and free food supplied by interest groups.
Gosen said the time spent away from his family was more of a contributing factor to his affair than any sort of culture around the Capitol. He said he believes infidelity is more common among people in the private sector than among lawmakers.
"Generally, people at the Capitol know they're under very close scrutiny," he said. "My situation's more about human fallibility."
When asked if this was his only extramarital relationship, he said "yes," adding that rumors of another affair were false. Gosen said he hopes people respect the woman's privacy.
Gosen, 53, was first elected to his Chesterfield seat in 2010, and he was chairman of the House Select Committee on Insurance. He has worked as an insurance agent for 20 years and co-owns a brewing company in Hermann, according to a House biography that is no longer on the website.
"Hour by hour, I'm going to get through this. My family's going to get through this. And the sun will come up tomorrow," he said.