The DFL Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent has called on Majority Leader Paul Gazelka to resign as more details have emerged regarding the outbreak of COVID-19 among the Minnesota GOP.
Gazelka announced on Sunday that he had become the third GOP senator to be diagnosed with COVID-19, saying he had began experiencing symptoms last Monday, Nov. 9 – the same day he flew to Florida, where he has since been quarantining.
But it later emerged on Sunday that the Minnesota Senate GOP held a large, in-person dinner party at an event center in Lake Elmo on Nov. 5 to celebrate the party holding onto the Senate majority in the Nov. 3 election.
The party was first revealed by FOX 9, with an estimated 100-150 people in attendance. A source told reporter Theo Keith that many of those attending were not wearing face masks.
The event was held on the same day that a Senate GOP Caucus meeting was held in the Capitol, since when Sens. David Senjem, Paul Anderson, and Gazelka have tested positive for COVID-19.
The GOP informed its Senate members of the potential exposure in a memo on Tuesday, two days before the Legislature convened for the latest special session, but DFLers were furious as they were not informed of the outbreak until after the session.
Furthermore, MPR's Brian Bakst reports that the GOP did not inform the Lake Elmo venue that hosted the Nov. 5 event of the party's COVID-19 outbreak until today (Sunday).
This latest in a string of revelations about the GOP's outbreak prompted Kent to call on Gazelka to step down, saying: "The Senate Majority Leader is entrusted with the responsibility of keeping all members and staff in the Senate safe. Senator Gazelka has failed to do both.
"Under his leadership, Republican caucus members have engaged in high-risk behaviors, he has misled Minnesotans about their actions, and they have made excuses instead of being accountable. This demonstrates that he is not committed to providing for the well-being of all who work in the Senate, their families, and their communities. As a result, he cannot be counted on to lead during the crucial 2021 session."
On Sunday, as he announced his diagnosis, Gazelka accused the DFL of using the outbreak among the GOP as a "political tool," just a day after he accused Gov. Tim Walz of enacting policies that have "failed to protect" long-term care residents and workers.
Gazelka has opposed many of the measures put in place by the governor, and just last month launched an election strategy called the "Contract to Open Up Minnesota," saying COVID mitigation efforts should be voluntary, not mandated.
Gazelka has not yet commented on the DFL's calls for his resignation.