Gov. Tim Walz and Attorney General Keith Ellison issued a fresh warning Tuesday about compliance with state COVID-19 safety requirements, focusing particularly on political gatherings in the last two weeks before Election Day.
"In these last 14 days, Minnesotans have countless ways to express their ideas and passions safely," the two Democratic elected officials said in a statement. "We encourage all campaigns to protect the safety of Minnesotans. We all must do our part to combat the spread of COVID-19."
The warnings follow complaints by DFL Party leaders about Republican campaign events featuring large gatherings with maskless people, including at a recent Duluth rally with President Donald Trump, who was later hospitalized with COVID-19.
Walz and Ellison noted that the state has contacted organizers of more than 70 large community events in the last several months to make sure that they comply with state emergency mandates that include face masks, social distancing and sanitation protocols.
Last week, Ellison's office contacted a Northfield farm that hosted a campaign rally headlined by Eric Trump, a son of President Donald Trump. The inquiry, which Ellison termed "routine," prompted a complaint from Minnesota GOP Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan, who called it an "abuse of power."
This week, Carnahan tweeted a written response from Ellison. In an image of the letter that Carnahan posted on Twitter, Ellison provided a photo of the Northfield rally showing hundreds of Trump supporters packed into a building on the property. Those not wearing masks appeared to outnumber those who opted to don a face covering.
"It is the responsibility of all of us to stop the spread of COVID-19," Ellison wrote.
Walz sent letters to both the presidential campaigns of Trump and Democratic challenger Joe Biden in September urging them to follow his coronavirus directives. The Trump campaign, however, has openly defied virus restrictions around the country.
John Stiles, a spokesman for the Attorney General's Office, said other event organizers who have been contacted include sponsors of sporting competitions, flea markets, festivals, campaign gatherings and dog shows. He declined to release a list, citing exemptions for "nonpublic investigative data."
Stiles said that of all the contacts made by his office — or state health and labor officials — only a summer rodeo in Effie, Minn., resulted in enforcement action. The rodeo was billed as a protest against the governor's coronavirus restrictions after state officials sought to limit attendance.
Earlier in the year, Ellison's office filed suit against the owner of Shady's, a chain of bars and restaurants whose owner had vowed to reopen in violation of temporary executive orders issued in May to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The state's action was heavily criticized by state GOP lawmakers.
Stephen Montemayor • 612-673-1755