The Potluck

Scott County GOP files complaint against Republican candidate for state House

By: - June 28, 2022 3:27 pm

A former Republican lawmaker who was unseated by Shakopee Rep. Erik Mortensen — and is now trying to unseat Mortensen in a rematch — has been accused of falsely claiming he was endorsed by the Scott County Republican Party.

Mortensen toppled former Rep. Bob Loonan in 2018, months after Loonan was arrested for suspicion of drunken driving in Jordan. Two driving under the influence charges were later dismissed, and he was convicted of a petty misdemeanor traffic violation. 

Mortensen is a right-wing firebrand who has spent much of his first term decrying vaccines and pulling attention-grabbing stunts, which has made him a pariah in his party. He is part of the far-right group Action 4 Liberty, which is challenging what they call “weak and feckless” Republicans across the state.

Republican colleagues have called Mortensen everything from “the village idiot” to “a petulant child.”

Neither Mortensen nor Loonan was endorsed for House District 54A during the March GOP convention, so they’re duking it out in a primary for the third time.  

The county party filed a complaint against Loonan with the Office of Administrative Hearings, where administrative law judges preside over cases involving challenges to state and local government action.

They allege his campaign literature falsely claimed their endorsement, in violation of state law. Loonan said they appear to have found a 2016 campaign piece. The campaign literature also refers to Loonan’s “reelection,” which the party said was a violation of law since Loonan is not an incumbent. 

“Bob has damaged the Republican Party and is deceiving Republicans. Someone who has been a lawmaker and seeks to be one again should actually follow the law,” Scott County GOP Director At-Large Jim Krause said in a press release.

When such violations occur within 60 days of the primary election, an expedited probable cause hearing must be held by an administrative law judge. On Monday, a judge reviewed the allegation and scheduled a probable cause hearing for Wednesday. Loonan said Krause testified at the hearing  that someone received that old flier, but he didn’t say who. 

This sort of party infighting isn’t unusual in Scott County: Loonan accused county party officials of favoring Mortensen in 2020, too. 

Mortensen did not respond to a request for comment.

This story was updated at 2:06 p.m. Wednesday to include Loonan’s response.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs. Before joining the staff of the Reformer in 2021 she was a contributor to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. She and her husband have a daughter, son, and very grand child. In her spare time, she likes to play tennis, jog, garden and attempt to check out all the best restaurants in the metro area.