State Rep. John Kriesel, R-Cottage Grove, announced this week that he won't seek re-election. But the Iraq War veteran said he wasn't scared away from the Capitol by a tough first term that included a state shutdown and contentious debates about same-sex marriage.
"There are times down there where it's frustrating, there are long nights, but to be honest, I've had much tougher nights and longer times during military service," Kriesel told Tom Crann of All Things Considered on Friday. "All of this in perspective, it's nothing compared to being in war."
Kriesel said he's chosen not to run for office again because he's already missed too much of his children's lives.
"I've been looking back at pictures from when my boys were little and some of the videos my wife sent me when I was in Iraq of my boys singing songs," Kriesel said. "It's really brought me back to the point that my kids don't want me to run for re-election."
Kriesel, who is among the most active state legislators on Twitter, said he tried to live by his original campaign slogan, "People Before Politics."
"I like to drink beer and watch football on Sundays, just regular stuff," Kriesel said. "The main reason I wanted to run was to show people that you could be a regular dude, go up there, make a difference, but still be real."
Kriesel was one of only three Republicans in the state Legislature to oppose the constitutional same-sex marriage ban that will go before Minnesota voters in 2012. He said he's received no blowback from other Republicans upset by his stance on the issue. Instead, he has a suggestion for resolving partisan squabbles.
"They need to bring back the bar that was in the basement of the Capitol, as crazy as that sounds," Kriesel said. "[When] you sit down, you have a beer with somebody and talk about your differences, it's going to be a lot tougher to really be mean to somebody on the House floor."
Kriesel sent an email to House colleagues Thursday telling them that he'd decided not to run for re-election.
"It wasn't an easy decision, but it's the right decision for my family," Kriesel said. "So when I hit send, I was relieved."