- Associated Press - Tuesday, September 1, 2015

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - North Dakota’s Republican Lt. Gov. Drew Wrigley, who has been on a short list of strong contenders for governor, said Tuesday that he had an extramarital affair that had ended and he was still actively considering a run for higher office.

Wrigley spoke to The Associated Press at his home a few hours after a left-leaning blog posted an analysis of the hopefuls to succeed Gov. Jack Dalrymple. It counted Wrigley out, referring to “a messy personal situation.” But Wrigley and his wife said the decision to disclose the affair was their own, without any outside influence.

“Today we are dealing with this and making an intensely private matter public,” Wrigley said as he sat next to his wife of 17 years, Kathleen. “I acknowledged to my wife many months ago that I had been unfaithful.”

Wrigley, 49, would not identify the woman or give details including when the affair occurred. He said it was over and that he had told Dalrymple about it shortly after he told his wife “this year - many, many months ago.”

“I did make the governor aware a while back,” Wrigley said.

Dalrymple’s spokesman, Jeff Zent, said the governor - who is not seeking another term - continues to have faith in Wrigley.

“The governor does expect the lieutenant governor to stay in his position,” Zent said. “When the lieutenant governor came to the governor, the lieutenant governor assured the governor that it did not involve a conflict of interest.”

Asked whether the woman gained any influence or favor from the affair, Wrigley said she did not.

“She is not a public official in any way, shape or form,” Wrigley said. “Nothing like that came up whatsoever and we never crossed over and touched on each others’ work.”

Wrigley, who is serving his first elected four-year term as lieutenant governor, is a former U.S. attorney and former director of the North Dakota Republican Party. He told the AP that he is still “actively considering” a run for governor but emphasized that his priority was to “reconstitute trust” with his wife and family.

The couple said they told their three children, ages 14, 12 and 7, and “close friends and family” of the affair last week. The couple said they have been seeking professional and spiritual counseling.

“I believe in Drew, I believe in our family and I believe in our future,” Kathleen Wrigley said. “That said, there is no one more devastated by this than me.”

State Sen. Kelly Armstrong, who heads the state GOP party, would not comment on whether Wrigley’s affair would hurt his chance to become governor.

“That’s between him and the voters - if he decides to run,” Armstrong said.

As U.S. attorney for North Dakota, Wrigley was best known for his prosecution of Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., who was convicted of kidnapping and causing the death of University of North Dakota student Dru Sjodin in 2003. Her abduction from the parking lot of a Grand Forks shopping mall prompted more stringent laws against sex offenders. Wrigley also obtained North Dakota’s first federal death penalty verdict in the case.

Wrigley had previously been a prosecutor for five years in the Philadelphia district attorney’s office before he returned to North Dakota in 1998. He later became director of the state GOP and was hired after the 2000 campaign as Gov. John Hoeven’s deputy chief of staff. He worked in the governor’s office until November 2001, when he was confirmed as a federal prosecutor.

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