“I’ve been getting overwhelming support for what I said” including “all the men white men in my family,” said Minnesota House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman about the reaction to her comments about members holding a “100% white male card game” in the retiring room instead of listening to speeches from women and minority members of the legislature against a bill raising penalties on protesters.
“But I think it speaks to a larger issue of tone in the Minnesota House this year. And really leadership starts at the top.”
Hortman mentioned Republicans have set the wrong tone this year. Beyond their “complete inattention to floor activity” that she protested on Monday, they’ve installed a mute button that allows Republican House Speaker Kurt Daudt to silence all of the microphones in the House . She said the kind of conduct that happens in the retiring room has also contributed to the tone “which is really a new phenomenon.” She also said Speaker Daudt has had long absences from presiding or even being present on the floor.
“There has never a tone in the Minnesota House during my time here where dissent has been so thoroughly disregarded that people feel they don’t even need to listen to it. And I think that’s problematic.”
She pointed to the election of Donald Trump and said voters were saying “we’d really like public servants to work together, to listen to each other, to find compromise.
Hortman has regrets and damage to repair
Hortman said she has some work to do because “the way in which I tried to get my colleagues to listen to some of my other colleagues in some ways has mad the gulf a little bit deeper.”
Hortman says she has two roles. One is to stand up for people who aren’t being heard, but the other is “to bridge that divide with Republicans.”
She’s talked with Republican Rep. Bob Dettmer who she now famously sparred with on the House floor and said she would not apologize for her comment She’s also spoken with Republican Rep. Greg Davids who called for her to resign. She says “it’s probably too soon for me to invite you to my home for a game of Texas Hold ‘em. Although Davids thought that was a pretty good idea.”
“We need to work with each other to listen to each other and respect each other,“ she added.
Asked if she regretted her remarks Hortman said “I regret the extent to which relationships have been damaged. Yes, for sure. Because I respect my Republican colleagues. I know that everybody who runs for public office in Minnesota does so because they want to make Minnesota a better place. I want them to understand that I respect their point of view and I listen to it.”
Hortman said Republicans need to get involved. “The Speaker (Kurt Daudt) has to convey respect for dissenting points of view and basic civility whether it is on the House floor or in our negotiations with the Governor or with the Senate. We have to get to a point where we can talk to each other and we can listen to each other.”
She’s spoken to Republican leaders about this, but has got no assurances on their cooperation.
Friday, House Republicans filed a Protest and Dissent letter in the House Journal regarding Leader Hortman’s statements on the floor this week.
House DFL Leader Melissa Hortman released the following statement:
“I’m still not sorry.”
Leader Hortman will not have a chance to respond formally until the legislature reconvenes on April 18th, and intends to do so.
Governor Mark Dayton was asked if Hortman should apologize. He said “no.”
“If minority legislators are not receiving the same respect and consideration that others are, then I think that needs to be called out. It should be,” said Dayton.