Two Republican candidates for state office in Minnesota have been physically assaulted in recent days, leading prominent Republican lawmakers to caution their Democratic colleagues against employing inflammatory rhetoric.
Republican state representative Sarah Anderson was punched in the arm last week after confronting a man who was destroying yard signs promoting Republican candidates.
“It was just insane. He was charging at me, saying, ‘Why don’t you go kill yourself?'” Anderson told the Washington Free Beacon. “To have someone physically coming after you and attacking you is just disheartening.”
Shane Mekeland, a first-time Republican candidate for the state legislature, suffered a concussion over the weekend after he was sucker punched while meeting with constituents at a local restaurant.
“I was so overtaken by surprise and shock, and if this is the new norm, this is not what I signed up for,” said Mekeland, who has suffered from memory loss and sensitivity to light since the incident.
Local police confirmed that a suspect had been identified in connection with both assaults and said charges will likely be filed in the coming days.
The attacks took place days after the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party suspended a communications staffer for one week for writing in a Facebook post that Democrats would “bring [Republicans] to the guillotine” in the coming elections.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and fellow prominent Republicans have cautioned their Democratic colleagues in recent weeks against using inflammatory and divisive rhetoric and have increasingly cast them as the unhinged party of “mob rule” when addressing voters.
“Only one side was happy to play host to this toxic fringe behavior,” McConnell said Thursday, referencing the raucous protesters that descended on the Capitol during Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearing. “Only one side’s leaders are now openly calling for more of it. They haven’t seen enough. They want more. And I’m afraid this is only Phase One of the meltdown.”
Asked about Senator Cory Booker’s (D., N.J.) urging his constituents to “get up in the face of” politicians they disagree with, Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) said the statement could be misinterpreted by the mentally ill.
“I think what people need to realize, that when people like Cory Booker say, ‘Get up in their face,’ he may think that that’s OK,” said Paul, who was present when Representative Steve Scalise (R., La.) was shot during a practice for the annual congressional baseball game last year. “But what he doesn’t realize is that for about every 1,000th person that might want to get up in your face, one of them is going to be unstable enough to commit violence.”