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Senate DFL leader calls for majority leader's resignation after COVID outbreak

DFL Senator Susan Kent claims Republicans in the senate mismanaged a potential outbreak among its ranks, and put others at risk by not informing all on the situation
Credit: KARE 11

Minnesota Senate DFL Leader Susan Kent is calling for Majority Leader Paul Gazelka to resign his leadership position, alleging several large in-person gatherings led to an outbreak of COVID-19 among several GOP senators and staff.

Sen. Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, announced he started feeling symptoms on Monday, Nov. 9 and announced he tested positive for COVID-19 Sunday, becoming the third GOP state senator to be diagnosed with the disease this week.

Gazelka released a statement saying he started feeling symptoms on Monday and did not attend the special session. He said "I am not experiencing major issues or symptoms and I expect like 99% of people, I will make a full recovery. We have learned a lot about this virus and how to treat it, we must remain cautiously optimistic that we will find a way to live with it. Our future cannot be prolonged isolation, face coverings, and limited activities."

Sen. Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, told KARE 11 he tested positive on Monday, Nov. 9, and Sen. Paul T. Anderson, R-Plymouth told Minnesota Public Radio on Nov. 13th that he tested positive.

The controversy goes back to Nov. 5, where the Senate GOP Caucus held an in-person meeting at the capitol. Later that night, GOP senators and guests held an in-person, post-election dinner party at a metro-area event center.

The next day, GOP senators and staff were alerted of the possible exposure to COVID, and staff were told not to attend the upcoming special session. DFL leaders say they were never warned of the potential exposure before the session.

Sen. Kent, DFL-Woodbury, said in an emailed statement “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.