The New House Republican Caucus parted ways with Rep. Erik Mortensen last week because the first-term lawmaker’s tactics undermined the group’s goal of building a broad conservative coalition, a member of the caucus said.
In a statement to Alpha News, Rep. Jeremy Munson, R-Lake Crystal, said that while there were “many conversations” with Mortensen and “consensus among the other members” about Mortensen’s approach to lawmaking, there was never a formal vote on whether to kick him out.
A letter from Rep. Steve Drazkowski, leader of the NHRC, to House Speaker Melissa Hortman last week provided a single sentence stating that Mortensen would “no longer be part of the New House Republican Caucus.”
Mortensen, a Republican from Shakopee, said that the reason he is no longer part of the NHRC is because caucus members decided to remove him for his criticism of the “RINOs in St. Paul,” he told Alpha News.
“They begged me to stop shining a spotlight on the RINOs in St. Paul and threatened to kick me out if I failed to obey their orders. I told them I would rather be kicked out of their caucus than give up fighting for grassroots conservatives,” he added.
Mortensen later claimed in a Facebook post that he was removed from the caucus because of his criticism of 11 Republicans who blocked a roll-call vote on his “Never Again” bill, which would strip the governor of his unilateral power to declare an emergency.
Munson addressed these claims when speaking with Alpha News and said Mortensen, through his actions, indirectly chose to no longer be a part of the caucus.
“Criticism is justified for votes or for introducing and signing onto bills. Not signing onto a complex piece of legislation like the ‘Never Again’ bill is not justification for attacking someone,” Munson said of the separation between the NHRC and Mortensen.
Mortensen has “repeatedly publicly denounced” Republican legislators when they did not vote on his bill.
“The confrontational political model does not work when attacks are launched from within the legislature and specifically does not work when the attacks are launched at the most conservative legislators whom other members of our caucus are working with to build and grow our conservative movement,” Munson said.
Members of the NHRC had several conversations with Mortensen about how he could not “attack the very people” they were working with on conservative matters, according to Munson.
“He could choose to associate with us, or he could continue to attack us. He chose the latter,” Munson told Alpha News.
While the NHRC was founded with the goal of building a larger coalition of conservatives to fight for liberty and “to not take marching orders from elected leaders or lobbyists,” the caucus does not agree with Mortensen’s approach to achieving these ends.
Calling out legislators by name and “using offensive descriptors and accusatory language,” according to Munson, is Mortensen’s method of holding lawmakers accountable.
The NHRC’s methods focus on using a “level of respect” that Mortensen lacks, Munson said.
“Our way maintains a level of respect that allows us to continue working with other principled conservative legislators. Rep. Mortensen prioritizes differently and does not agree [with] the strategies of the New House Republican Caucus, so he chose to disassociate and have his own staff that will prioritize his strategies,” Munson said.
In a recent interview on Alpha News Live, Mortensen claimed that the “vast majority” of lawmakers at the Capitol are more concerned with making “friends” with other legislators than they are about creating real change and results for Minnesota citizens.
He also criticized the legislative process for being “just like a play.”
“They go through their scripts, and the outcome is predetermined,” Mortensen said.
The NHRC was formed after the 2018 midterms by four Republican legislators who were displeased with the leadership of House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt. Mortensen announced his intent to join the caucus shortly after his election in November.