Minnesota Democrats cancel 100-person swearing-in ceremony after backlash

A permit for the event was approved by the Department of Administration and reveals that 100 people were expected to attend.

Screenshot from Sen.-elect Omar Fateh's Facebook

A group of newly-elected Democrats have canceled an in-person inauguration ceremony that was expected to draw 100 attendees after facing criticism throughout the week.

According to an advertisement for the event, Democrats Mary Kunesh-Podein, Jennifer McEwen, Erin Murphy, Lindsey Port, Ann Johnson Stewart, Omar Fateh, and Aric Putnam were scheduled to participate in an in-person swearing-in ceremony Jan. 5 on the steps of the Capitol.

All seven Democrats were elected to the Minnesota Senate in November, though the swearing-in ceremony was not officially sanctioned by the Senate DFL Caucus, according to a statement provided to Axios reporter Torey Van Oot.

“While the Senate is offering a virtual swearing-in ceremony option, the Senate DFL is not hosting any formal in-person celebration ceremonies. Individual members may decide and coordinate their own but we expect and they have committed to follow all CDC and MDH guidelines as well as comply with the governor’s executive order,” a Senate DFL spokesperson told Van Oot.

A permit for the event was approved by the Department of Administration and reveals that 100 people were expected to attend. The Muslim American Society of Minnesota was listed as the organizer of the event.

A source in the Walz administration told Morning Take that while the ceremony “doesn’t technically break any rules for outdoor events, it’s completely unnecessary and undermines efforts to get Minnesotans to take the virus and mitigation efforts seriously.”

Gov. Tim Walz’s Executive Order 20-103 allows “venues providing outdoor events and entertainment” to host up to 100 people. For families hosting outdoor social gatherings, a maximum of 15 people are allowed.

Walz’s office told WCCO reporter David Schuman that the governor has “no comment.”

Erin Murphy, one of the Democrats who planned to participate in the ceremony and a registered nurse, frequently criticizes Republicans for their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Giving priority to electeds is wrong. It undermines a democratic principle of governing and fosters a false sense of safety,” Murphy said on the topic of vaccines for elected officials. “For our health and our healthy democracy, no special treatment for those elected.”

In another tweet, Murphy said the “story of America’s Covid experience” will be “littered by those in powerful positions who used their power to deny the risk, flout the rules, and mislead America into a deep health and economic crisis.”

Sen. Karin Housley pointed out that lawmakers weren’t allowed to hold an “outdoor, socially-distanced, last day of session in May” to say goodbye to retiring members.

The inaugural class of DFL senators released a statement Wednesday afternoon to announce “new safety protocols allowing the option of a remote or in-person inauguration process for new senators, which will comply with Minnesota Department of Health guidelines.”

“Our original announcement did not provide enough details about the safety precautions we had in place, and those that seek to divide us used it as an opportunity to distract from the important work we have been elected to do for the people of Minnesota,” said the press release. “We reject that premise and will be holding a joint, virtual press event on Tuesday afternoon to highlight some of the vital issues we will be focusing on in this session.”

The statement said the plan for an outdoor, in-person ceremony was created “because the original description of the day we were given did not guarantee mask wearing or provide a safe environment for us or our families.”

“On Tuesday, we will be sworn-in to begin our work as senators. While some of us will be sworn-in remotely and others will be sworn-in at the Capitol, each of us will do so safely and in a manner that ensures the safety of our family, our friends, and our community,” the statement concluded.