While the Minnesota GOP has been roiled by controversy over the past week, with chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan the subject of calls to resign, there has been mostly silence from the state's top elected Republicans.
While there have been statements condemning child sex trafficking in the wake of Anton Lazzaro's indictment, there have been few such comments on the future of Carnahan – who is facing calls to resign from some party members for her close links to Lazzaro and her response to his indictment, and criticism for the way she has run the state party amid allegations of discord, harassment, and financial mismanagement within the party's upper echelons, which she denies.
The likes of U.S. Reps. Michelle Fischbach (R-CD7), Tom Emmer (R-CD4), Pete Stauber (R-CD8), have not commented publicly on the future of Carnahan, who is married to Rep. Paul Hagedorn (R-CD1).
Breaking his silence on Monday was Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, issued a brief post on Twitter in which he stated any decisions on Carnahan's future should be left to the relevant party authorities.
"There are allegations that have come to light regarding the leadership at the state party. I fully trust the executive board and state central delegates to find a path forward for our party. It’s very important that we look at all of the facts before we make any decisions," he tweeted, before issuing an addendum a few hours later that backed Lazzaro's arrest, and decried sex trafficking.
The comment by Gazelka, who is reported to be mulling a run for governor in 2022 and as such would require the backing of the party in the event he wins, is in marked contrast to comments he made when complaints of sexual harassment were recently made within the Senate DFL Party, with a former staffer alleging that her complaint against another staff member went un-investigated.
At the time, Gazelka and his fellow Senate Republican leaders called for an independent investigation to get to the bottom of the allegations, but in the instance of his own party, he believes it should be handled internally by the GOP board and delegates.
While Gazelka has issued a brief statement, House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt has not commented on Carnahan's position, only to debunk a claim that he was working to keep her as chairwoman.
Carnahan challenges party executive to call confidence vote
Since the indictment was released, the Minnesota GOP has sought to distance itself from Lazzaro, with Carnahan on Monday depicting him as primarily a donor to Republican causes.
This is despite Lazzaro having been involved in at least state campaigns – Carnahan's run for party chair in 2017 and Lacy Johnson's 5th District run in 2020 – being a semi-regular talking head guest on FOX New, hosting a political podcast with Carnahan in 2019/20 called #TruthMatters, and attending Carnahan's wedding in 2018 to Rep. Jim Hagedorn.
Carnahan does seem to acknowledge that relationship in her statement, but argues that "there is no way for us to know the personal background of every contributor to the party – even those donors with whom we have a regular and consistent relationship," again ignoring that Lazzaro seems to have had a greater role in the party in recent years than as solely a donor.
Nonetheless, a defiant Carnahan challenged the GOP executive board to take a vote of confidence or no confidence in her, knowing that they would need a vote of 10-5 to remove her as state party chairwoman. She continues to claim she is the victim of a "coup" attempt, as well as being the subject of "misinformation."
On Monday, the Minnesota GOP also took the unusual step of publishing an extensive statement defending Carnahan from Ronald Huetll, Jr., the party's finance, compliance, and HR director.
He claims the pressure being exerted on Carnahan currently is "unethical and untruthful" and those who engage in it – which includes a growing number of elected Republican lawmakers including Sens. Karin Housley and Roger Chamberlain – "should be ashamed of themselves."