Shane Mekeland, a Republican candidate for the Minnesota House of Representatives, blamed Democrats for the climate of incivility and violence that led to the assault against him last weekend. He also called out the Minnesota Democratic Party for refusing to fire a staffer who posted on Facebook that Democrats would “guillotine” Republicans after the election.
On Friday evening, he suffered a concussion after being sucker-punched in the head in a politically motivated attack. A full recovery will take 4 to 6 weeks. The election is in 19 days.
In an interview with PJ Media on Wednesday, Mekeland described his struggles with memory loss and light sensitivity after the attack, and blamed Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), former secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and former attorney general Eric Holder for stoking a climate of incivility and violence that led to his assault.
“Right as he hit me, he said, ‘You f*cking people don’t give a sh*t about the middle class,'” Mekeland told PJ Media, recounting the assault. “How can you take my getting sucker-punched in the head to be anything other than politically motivated?”
The candidate recounted the suspect’s interview with police after the assault. The assailant, remorseful after the attack, admitted that Mekeland did nothing to provoke him, and confessed, “I hit him right in the side of his head by his eye, and I think I hit his nose, too.”
As the candidate got hit, he remembered, “The chair goes flying over, it whacked my head on the floor and that’s the last thing I remember. I guess the guy jumped on me, he wasn’t done.”
The assault has wreaked havoc on Mekeland’s day-to-day life. “Right now, I’m taking round 6 of Advil,” the candidate told PJ Media. “No TV, stay away from computer screens. I went into town on Monday, I didn’t realize the sun was giving me a headache! I’m sitting there thinking, ‘How the hell am I going to get home?'”
Shortly after posting about the assault on Facebook, the candidate tied it to the Democrats’ increasing rhetoric enflaming protests and harassment against Republicans. “Left, right or in between, civil discourse is needed. The media and the likes of Maxine Waters, Hillary, and Eric Holder as of late is driving this behavior,” he wrote in a Facebook comment.
The candidate stood by this statement in his interview with PJ Media. “They’re constantly driving this narrative of ‘It’s okay to be violent,'” he said.
Indeed, Waters has led the charge, calling for activists to harass members of the Trump administration in public places like gas stations and restaurants. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) encouraged activists to “get up in the face” of Republican candidates and office-holders. Hillary Clinton said Democrats “cannot be civil with a political party that wants to destroy what you stand for.” Eric Holder declared, “When they go low, we kick them.”
“This stuff just fuels this,” Mekeland told PJ Media, referring to the assault against him.
Even so, the local paper City Pages decided to mock Mekeland for this comment. “Think Maxine Waters has ever set foot in St. George Township, Minnesota?” the paper’s Mike Mullen asked, flippantly. “Unlikely: The Democratic member of Congress has been representing parts of Los Angeles for close to three decades, and keeps pretty busy.”
Mullen then cast aspersions on Mekeland for blaming women and black people for his problems. “But, confronted with an act of violence in a political lash-out, Shane name-dropped three people — two of them black, two of them women, and two of them not holding any office at this time — whose principal political ‘sin,’ of late, is criticizing the presidency of a man whose rallies routinely lead to some kind of confrontation, verbal or otherwise.”
The candidate responded to these jabs with mocking questions of his own. “Hillary Clinton, Eric Holder, how would they have any influence in rural Minnesota? Do they not think we have any TVs or anything?” Mekeland asked.
“Sadly, those that are of a more simple mind and are easily swayed” will likely be radicalized by such statements, he insisted. Liberals like Mullen “can deny it all they want, but while I sit here with a splitting headache, I’m having a hard time denying it.”
Some have even suggested that the assault was a political stunt. Mekeland — who said that “there isn’t enough Advil or Tylenol in the world right now” — laughed at that idea. “You got any friends that would risk a felony assault charge just to get you elected? I don’t know anybody that dumb,” he quipped.
Despite the increasing political tensions, William Davis, a communications staffer for the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party (the Democratic Party in Minnesota), posted on Facebook that Democrats would “bring [Republicans] to the guillotine” on the day after the election. The Democratic Party suspended Davis for one week without pay, the Washington Free Beacon’s Bill McMorris reported.
Mekeland insisted that Davis should have been fired. “This guy’s career is in politics and he’s in the communication department. He knows better. He knew there would be repercussions, but the message was more important than the consequences,” the candidate reasoned.
“They’re embracing it. That’s why he’s not being fired,” the candidate told PJ Media. This kind of violence “is their motto going forward.”
Troy Heck, Benton County sheriff, told PJ Media that “there is absolutely no evidence that the suspect was motivated by Mr. Davis’ post on Facebook.” That said, the “suspect in this case was identified and has been interviewed.” He has not yet been arrested or charged with a crime, and his name has not yet been released.
Heck told PJ Media, “I won’t speculate as to what the suspect’s motivation was beyond what the facts of the case indicate.”
Tragically, Mekeland was not the only Republican candidate assaulted recently in Minnesota. On Sunday, state Representative Sarah Anderson was punched in the arm after spotting a man destroying Republican yard signs.
“She witnessed a gentleman who was kicking at some signs, and not just her signs,” Michael Goldstein, police chief of Plymouth, Minn., told PJ Media. “She got out to talk with him and suggest that he might not want to do that, that those are technically private property.”
“He took exception to that and was verbally abusive with her, and when she tried to diffuse the situation, he punched her in the arm,” Goldstein recalled. He said the police have identified a suspect and are waiting to hear from Rep. Anderson whether or not she will pursue charges.
As in the assault against Mekeland, Goldstein emphasized that there was no evidence connecting this assault to Davis’ Facebook post.
“We’ve had contacts with him in the past, though on other issues,” the chief said. “I don’t think it’s just politics that are his trigger point. He has some behavioral issues that he just has to deal with.”
While the assault on Anderson may not have been entirely politically motivated, Goldstein suggested it might be a “combination” of political and non-political motives.
As for Anderson, “physically she’s fine. Emotionally and psychologically … she was accosted and hit and that’s not easy for anyone to digest. No one deserves that.”
Anderson told the Washington Free Beacon that her assailant yelled, “Why don’t you go kill yourself?”
Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), who nearly lost his life in the congressional baseball game shooting last year, condemned the assaults as “yet another report of conservative candidates being targeted with violence. We can’t accept attacks like these as the new normal, and we can’t shrug off the type of unhinged rhetoric that inspires and excuses assaulting others for their political beliefs.”
Yet another report of conservative candidates being targeted with violence. We can’t accept attacks like these as the new normal, and we can’t shrug off the type of unhinged rhetoric that inspires and excuses assaulting others for their political beliefs. https://t.co/b3hkUmXATS
— Steve Scalise (@SteveScalise) October 17, 2018
Neither the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party nor the Minnesota Republican Party returned PJ Media’s requests for comment. Also silent were the Democrats running against Anderson and Mekeland, Ginny Klevorn and Karla Scapanski.
Other politically motivated threats and attacks have resulted in arrests in New York, Nevada, and elsewhere. Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) has warned that the disintegration of close personal connections has exacerbated political tensions and tribalism, and that rhetoric and violence are only likely to get worse.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.