A 56-year-old Minnesota Democrat who had a sexual encounter with a minor he met online has dropped his re-election bid.

Representative Kerry Gauthier had defiantly stated he would stay in the race, despite party leaders wanting him out as they fight to regain control of the state legislature.

The Huffington Post reported that Senator Roger Reinert, a Democrat who shares a district with Mr Gauthier, said the withdrawal was “absolutely the right decision.”

Senator Reinert said Mr Gauthier’s presence in the campaign threatened to jeopardise Democratic attempts to win control of the legislature.

He said the scandal reinforced negative stereotypes of gay people, and could potentially harm the effort to defeat a proposed constitutional amendment on the November ballot which bans marriage equality.

Mr Gauthier said he decided to pull out after Democratic leaders repeatedly pressed him to do so, saying: “I changed my mind. Too much. It’s just too much.”

He also told the Associated Press that the overdose of muscle relaxants he took last week was a suicide attempt.

Previously, he’d issued a statement saying he had been in recovery for chemical dependency.

Mr Gauthier’s initial decision to stay in the race had not been met with support among his fellow Democrats, including Governor Mark Dayton who said: “I think it’s just something that goes beyond the morals of Minnesotans – to solicit on Craigslist sex with a minor and do it in a public area, publicly owned area, as a state legislator, and come back to the parking lot with his clothes disheveled.”

“It’s not about whether it’s a same-sex or a heterosexual act. It would be the same if it were the same circumstances involving a heterosexual individual.”

Police say Mr Gauthier admitted having oral sex with a 17-year-old on 22 July, having advertised on Craigslist for “no strings attached” sex.

He was not charged because the boy was over the legal age of consent, and no money was exchanged.

Via the Duluth News Tribune online, Mr Gauthier said: “I am sorry for the hurt this has caused my family, friends and my constituents.

“I know I made a mistake and am determined to make amends as best I can.”

Mr Gauthier said the incident happened because of his inability to accept his homosexuality.

He added that he was receiving counseling and that he felt bad for the teenager involved. He said he would not talk specifically about the incident in order to protect him.

Mr Gauthier said: “I can change my behavior, but I cannot change the fact that I am a gay man, and have known this since my college days.

“I simply must act like a mature gay man would act, and not as the incident portrays me.”