MNGOP Secretary of State candidate Dennis Nguyen admits going to strip clubs

MNGOP Secretary of State candidate Dennis Nguyen admits going to strip clubs
Dennis Nguyen photo via Facebook

In recent weeks, three different well-connected Minnesota Republicans have gotten in touch to pass along the same tip. (They asked their names be kept off the record.)

:::: UPDATE :::: Dennis Nguyen pulls out of Secretary of State race

The tipsters told us this: MNGOP secretary of state candidate Dennis Nguyen frequents strip clubs.

Now there's nothing illegal about going to strip clubs, of course. But the Republicans who got in touch with us expressed concern Nguyen's taste for such establishments is symptomatic of a lifestyle that could become politically problematic if he emerges as the MNGOP candidate to succeed DFLer Mark Ritchie, who announced last year he won't seek a third term as secretary of state.

Nguyen, once divorced, is now single. He has four kids, one born out of wedlock. More than one Republican tipster told us he's known for routinely bringing different dates to public events.

We reached out to Nguyen to get his response to the rumors. He routed our inquiries to his campaign manager, Sen. Brendan Petersen, R-Andover.

During a conversation yesterday, Petersen didn't deny that Nguyen has been to a strip club in the past, but argued it's no big deal and certainly not relevant to whether Nguyen or the two declared DFL candidates -- Steve Simon and Deb Hilstrom -- will make the best secretary of state.

"If the story is that Dennis has been to a strip club, then yeah, he's been to a strip club, but he doesn't frequent them and it's not something he does all the time," Petersen told us. "Just like tens of millions of other people."

"He's a single guy, not married," Petersen continued, adding that Nguyen is also pro-marriage equality and pro-choice (UPDATE -- Petersen got in touch Friday morning to say he misspoke in characterizing Nguyen as pro-choice. "He's very pro-life," Petersen said, adding he was in the midst of a busy day when we talked to him.) "We don't think it's a news story, but if we're going to get into the personal lives of the candidates, then it's fair to ask the same questions of Steve Simon and Deb Hilstrom -- have they been to strip clubs?"

Petersen pointed out that during 17 successful years working in the private equity field, Nguyen has never been sued. The implication is that because Republicans who are uncomfortable with Nguyen's politically non-traditional personal life can't go after him for legitimate reasons, they've chosen to spread rumors instead.

(For more, click to page two.)

Petersen said he asked Nguyen lots of questions about his personal life before he agreed to become part of his campaign in January, and was satisfied with his answers.

"Dennis has been really honest about what he's done in his personal life and we don't think there are any issues that preclude him from becoming secretary of state," Petersen said.

Asked why Nguyen doesn't want to answer our questions about the strip club rumors himself, Petersen said he "generally speaks on behalf of the campaign on any issue."

"Dennis obviously has the ability to speak for himself, but if he's going to be talking about something, he's going to be talking about issues that are relevant for the office of secretary of state," he said.

The MNGOP will officially determine the party's candidate for secretary of state in May, but Petersen said Nguyen plans to run in the August primary election if he's denied the endorsement.

-- Follow Aaron Rupar on Twitter at @atrupar. Got a tip? Drop him a line at [email protected]

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