The Potluck

Incoming GOP state legislator planning Thanksgiving gathering in defiance of Walz COVID-19 orders

By: - November 23, 2020 12:41 pm

State Rep. Erik Mortensen, R-Shakopee

An incoming GOP Minnesota state representative issued a provocative Thanksgiving invitation to Gov. Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison, essentially daring them to break up a planned holiday gathering this week in the face of an executive order prohibiting them.

Rep.-elect Erik Mortensen, R-Shakopee, on Thursday penned separate letters to Walz and Ellison, saying he planned to host “a handful of constituents that live outside of my personal residence,”  for yard games around a bonfire on Wednesday.

“We understand your executive orders have deemed these activities punishable but the United States Constitution supersedes your illegal and unconstitutional orders,” he wrote. “Governors do NOT have the power to make law.”

He said Walz and Ellison would be able to hear “first-hand stories” about how Walz’s executive orders have “decimated the lives of so many Minnesotans.”

Minnesota has had one of the fastest rising rates of COVID-19 infections in the past few weeks and health care workers are pleading with Minnesotans to be more careful lest they continue to take up dwindling hospital beds.

A Ramsey County judge in September ruled that Walz had the authority to issue executive orders to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. A group of GOP legislators and a business group had sued Walz, saying he had overstepped his power.

“The governor has acted pursuant to the authority delegated to him by the Legislature,” District Court Judge Thomas Gilligan wrote. “The COVID-19 pandemic constitutes an act of nature that provides the governor with the basis to declare a peacetime state of emergency in Minnesota.”

A spokesman for Walz did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for Ellison said it was unclear if the letter had been  transmitted to the attorney general. Copies of the letter were circulating on social media over the weekend.

Reached by phone on Monday, Mortensen said he was working and directed a journalist to submit questions by email. Emailed questions were not immediately returned on Monday.

Mortensen, a business owner, defeated first-term state representative Brad Tabke by 554 votes early this month. A third-party candidate advocating marijuana legalization received 1,706 votes. 

Tabke on Twitter criticized his successor for the planned event. “I really really want him to succeed in representing our community. This is not the way to do it,” he wrote. “There must be consequences for his actions. It is putting our neighbors, our friends, our family, and Shakopee’s health care workers directly in danger.”

Violations of Walz’s executive order against private social gatherings exceeding 10 people from more than three households carry potential fines of $1,000.

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