Melissa Hortman, surrounded by a few dozen supporters, made it quite clear Tuesday she’s not backing away from comments directed at white male colleagues in the Minnesota House.
You might remember Hortman as the state representative that accused white male lawmakers of not listening to a speech from Rep. Ilhan Omar earlier this month.
Her comments on the House floor drew criticism, with some calling her comments racist.
A group of Republicans also filed an official “Protest and Dissent” over the comments, imploring her to apologize. It was signed by 48 lawmakers. To which Hortman put out a brief response:
Supporters of Hortman held a rally at the Capitol in St. Paul Tuesday (the day lawmakers returned to work after a weeklong holiday break), during which she did not step back from any of her comments. Here are a couple tweets from the rally.
— Silas Morgan (@silasmorgan) April 18, 2017
— Susie Merthan (@SusieMerthan) April 18, 2017
Also speaking in support of Hortman were Reps. Omar, Peggy Flanagan, Rena Moran, and Mary Kunesh-Podein.
The “bulls***” comment also caught the eye of Republican Rep. Drew Christiansen, who tweeted he’d “be fielding angry phone calls from my mother and grandmother” if he’d used that term.
Rep. Kurt Daudt meanwhile, the Republican House Speaker, said Hortman is just trying to “divide” the Legislature, MPR reports.
A response to the Protest and Dissent
Meanwhile, Hortman, Moran, and Rep. Jon Applebaum filed an official response to the Protest and Dissent, arguing the conversation on April 3 – when Hortman referenced the “100 percent white male card game in the retiring room” – was relevant to the discussion at large.
The discussion involved civil rights, and lawmakers of color were speaking about “their experiences as people of color,” which offers “a different perspective” on things like protests, the response argues.
It continues: “The gender and racial identity of the speakers was relevant because they shared experiences that white members have not had.”
The discussion stemmed from a proposal in a public safety bill that would stiffen penalties for people who protest on a freeway or airport road. That larger bill passed the House – whether the increased penalties make it into a final compromise bill that gets approved isn’t known yet.
The state Legislature
MinnPost took a look at the demographics of the Minnesota Legislature (that’s the House and Senate combined) recently. They found a total of 64 female legislators for 2017-18 – that’s out of 201 total legislators, so women make up about 32 percent of state lawmakers.
They also found 16 lawmakers that identify as a racial or ethnic minority, which is the highest figure ever for the state.