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Late Sen. Relph's daughter calls on Gazelka to apologize for hosting party during COVID

Jerry Relph's daughter Dana Relph spoke to the Minnesota Reformer a day after her father died.
Jerry Relph

The daughter of late state Sen. Jerry Relph is calling on Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka to apologize for holding an in-person post-election party in November. 

That's according to the Minnesota Reformer, who spoke with Dana Relph a day after her father, a Republican senator from St. Cloud, died from complications related to the coronavirus. 

Jerry Relph, who was 76, is the first Minnesota lawmaker to die from COVID-19. He was among several lawmakers who tested positive for COVID-19 after likely contracting the virus at the Republican election celebration event held in Lake Elmo on Nov. 5. 

Dana Relph called the event "a frivolous and vain action" to spend money on an event during a pandemic, which put senators, staffers, and event employees at risk. 

"It fills me with rage that it happened," Dana Relph added, according to the Reformer. 

Gazelka, who has pushed to end Gov. Tim Walz's emergency powers and has criticized his executive orders that have put restrictions on businesses and social gatherings, said in an interview with WCCO Radio on Nov. 19 that he didn't regret they had the celebration (listen below). 

Following Jerry Relph's death, Gazelka released a statement calling him a "true friend and colleague" adding that they are "deeply saddened by his passing." 

The Senate Majority Leader has declined to comment on whether he carries any responsibility in Jerry Relph's death, the Reformer notes, but Senate GOP spokesperson Rachel Aplikowski said they're in contact with the Relph family regarding Dana Relph's concerns.

Bring Me The News has reached out to the Minnesota GOP for comment, but as of Tuesday had not recevied anything back.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, tweeted about Dana Relph's interview, saying no one would tell Jerry Relph where he should or shouldn't go.

Dana Relph also wrote an opinion piece for the Reformer in which she describes who her father was to her, saying many things she's read about her father feel "flat" to her. Her most "vibrant memories" she has with her dad are their chats to and from school where she learned how to think critically, noting it wasn't until she was older that she realized her father was a Republican and her political beliefs were in conflict with his. You can read her piece here

Other family members have also spoken out in response to Jerry Relph's death. Devoney Looser tweeted about Dana Relph's interview with the Reformer, saying, "My brave, brilliant, grieving cousin has decided to speak publicly and directly about the circumstances of her father's death. My family is not of one mind about what happened. I honor her for using her voice in this way."

She added, "It is in keeping with the character of her late father to speak out. She honors his memory with her willingness to take a stand."

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