A volley of indignation over a backroom Capitol card game resumed Tuesday, when the DFL lawmaker who called it out shot back at the Republicans accusing her of out-of-bounds rhetoric.
House Minority Leader Melissa Hortman of Brooklyn Park filed a protest letter to respond to a GOP protest letter admonishing her as needlessly injecting race and gender into a debate. It stems from her early April comment that a "100 percent white male card game" in the House retiring room was distracting attention from an important debate on a crime measure.
"I think it's the equivalent of putting something on my permanent record and I thought it merited a reply," Hortman said after addressing a rally in her defense.
Both letters were put in the House journal but carry no other weight. The Republican letter, signed by dozens of representatives, was submitted prior to the just-concluded spring break and said Hortman's comment was "beneath the dignity" of her office.
"We implore Minority Leader Hortman to apologize for her actions and strive to repair the damage she has caused to the collaborative work environment at the Minnesota House of Representatives," they wrote in their April 7 letter.
Hortman, along with two House DFL colleagues, said in the response letter that race and gender were already central to the House debate that day on a bill that would stiffen criminal penalties for disruptive protests.
"The gender and racial identity of the speakers was relevant because they shared experiences that white members have not had," Hortman and the others wrote. "The gender and identity of a group of some members who were missing the speeches was relevant, too, because those members had the most to learn" from the debate at hand."
A rally to show support for Hortman attracted more than 50 people Tuesday to the Capitol Rotunda. There were chants and signs with the message "Sorry, Not Sorry" and several women shared accounts of when they felt minimized.
Hortman addressed the crowd, twice using an expletive for emphasis.
"I think part of why what I said touched a nerve is that many of us have had that experience of being ignored," she said. "And let's not just let it go anymore. Let's call bull--- when we see it."
House Speaker Kurt Daudt, R-Zimmerman, said it's time to move on.
"She obviously wants to keep it alive. That's fine, but it's a divisive issue. She's trying to divide not only the Legislature but she's trying to divide Minnesotans. But I don't have time for it," Daudt said.
"We've got a lot of work to do and we have a lot of work to do on behalf of all Minnesotans of every race, of every gender, of every sex. We've got a lot of work to do and we're committed to that work," he added. "This is a sideshow."