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GOP lawmakers, candidate for governor to attend fundraiser for bar owner evading arrest

Lisa Hanson has a warrant out for her arrest, stemming from her decision to open her bar in defiance of the COVID-19 shutdown over the winter.

A group of prominent Minnesota Republicans – including gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen – will be attending a fundraiser for an Albert Lea bar owner who is currently evading a warrant for her arrest.

The event at Fountain Lake Park will be held this Saturday, May 1, as a fundraiser for Lisa Hanson, the owner of The Interchange Wine and Coffee Bistro who is currently wanted by authorities for failing to appear for a March court hearing related to her keeping The Interchange open during COVID-19 shutdown orders in December and January.

Jensen is named among the speakers at the event along with Sen. Mark Koran, R-North Branch – who recently challenged Jennifer Carnahan to be chair of the Minnesota GOP – and freshman Rep. Erik Mortensen, R-Shakopee.

Bring Me The News has reached out to all three for comment as to why they are supporting the fundraiser to assist Hanson in her criminal proceedings, but has yet to receive a response.

Hanson spoke with the Star Tribune from an "undisclosed location" saying she would not turn herself in until authorities had met several conditions, including being served "the proper summons" to court by Freeborn County Sheriff Kurt Freitag.

Freitag, however, said she had been served the summons lawfully and told the newspaper Hanson "is in no position to be making conditions."

Hanson told the Albert Lea Tribune a deputy had attempted to arrest her on March 11, the day after her court hearing, but said the deputy didn't arrest her after they spoke with Freitag on the phone and they reached an "understanding she would take care of the warrant."

She also told the newspaper police drove by while she was holding a get-together for supporters at her home in rural Hayward, but didn't pull into the property. This nonetheless prompted her to remove herself from her home and moved to an undisclosed location.

A website supporting Hanson, BeTheInterchange.com, describes her side of the events leading up to what it describes will be an "epic court battle."

It says she opened the bar to in-person dining for six days during the COVID shutdown as she was "standing on her unalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," and called Gov. Tim Walz's shutdown order unconstitutional, despite courts finding that was not the case.

Her bar was fined $9,000 in January for violating a court order that itself found the business in contempt of court for violating a temporary restraining order granted on Dec. 23, 2020.

Hanson is listed as a speaker at Saturday's event, though it's not made clear if she will be appearing in person.

The Republicans supporting Hanson

Jensen launched his campaign to challenge Gov. Tim Walz in November 2022 last month, and has made opposing lockdowns his key issue on his campaign website.

During the course of the pandemic, the family physician and former state senator has been criticized for, among other things, suggesting the COVID death toll was being exaggerated by medical professionals and hospitals, and comparing COVID-19 to the flu.

He appeared in October at a 2020 Vaccine Awareness Event in Alexandria alongside notable anti-vaxxers such as Andrew Wakefield and Sheila Ealey. Jensen has said he will not be getting the COVID-19 vaccine as he has already had the virus, despite medical experts including the Mayo Clinic saying people who have already had COVID-19 should still get vaccinated to limit the risks of reinfection.

His website also has a campaign issue called "Enforce the law. Protect Minnesotans," though the section mainly focuses on the civil unrest in the Twin Cities during May 2020, and efforts to dismantle the Minneapolis Police Department following the murder of George Floyd.

Jensen's support of Hanson's fundraiser has been criticized by DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin, who said "it is hardly a surprise that he is now fundraising to support someone whose claim to fame is refusing to recognize the danger of this pandemic."

"Republicans like Scott Jensen cannot claim to support law and order while encouraging Minnesotans to break the law and put their communities at risk," he said, accusing Jensen of putting his "political career over the health and well-being of our community."

Sen. Koran has similarly railed against business shutdown measures, while Mortensen has previously been in the headlines for praising bars that defied COVID-19 shutdown orders, and vowing to flout COVID-19 rules prior to Thanksgiving, as cases were spiking in Minnesota.

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