Rep. Olson dumped from House GOP caucusby Tom Scheck, Minnesota Public Radio
Republicans in the Minnesota House have voted to cut ties with Rep. Mark Olson, R-Big Lake, just four days before Olson is scheduled to appear in court. He is scheduled to be arraigned on Tuesday in Sherburne County District Court on two counts of domestic abuse. This week's efforts by the House Republicans is the first step in ensuring Olson is removed from office if he's found guilty.
St. Paul, Minn. — Incoming House Minority Leader Marty Seifert of Marshall says every Republican member of the House except for Mark Olson met on Thursday night and decided to suspend Olson from the caucus. Seifert says caucus members want to send a message that his alleged actions are unacceptable.
"If he did this, politics shouldn't play a role. It's about high ethical standards. So I'm a different sort of person in office that I say we need to be serious to keeping people to high ethical standards and this is unacceptable," Seifert said.
Seifert says if Olson is found not guilty, the GOP caucus will reassess the situation. The criminal complaint against Olson accuses him of pushing his wife to the ground three times during an argument on November 12. It also said she had fresh bruises. He is charged with two counts of misdemeanor assault.
"If he knows in his mind that he did this, domestic abuse, then he ought to be out of the Legislature," Seifert said.
Olson's suspension from the caucus means he will not receive staff support and will not be allowed to meet with other Republicans to talk about issues and plan strategy. The House has the power to remove a lawmaker from office, but has not exercised it in recent memory.
Olson did not return calls for this story. The attorney who represented him during his first court appearance said he has not been retained as Olson's legal counsel and couldn't comment further. Olson has said that he will not resign his seat. Last month, he won his eighth term in office.
"If it turns out that he's found guilty or pleads guilty to the conduct alleged, then it's just not appropriate for him to be serving in the Legislature," Gov. Tim Pawlenty said on Friday.
Republicans also seem to be lining up a well-known candidate to replace Olson if he resigns or is removed from office. An aide to Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer, who lost her re-election bid last month, says Republicans are recruiting her to run for Olson's seat.
Representative Joyce Peppin, R-Rogers, says she thinks Kiffmeyer would have an easy time winning the seat.
"I have not talked to her about it myself, there was an article in the local paper that made that suggestion, and I'm sure Mary Kiffmeyer would easily get the Republican endorsement and would easily win the election," according to Peppin.
Kiffmeyer could not be reached for comment.
Incoming House Speaker Margaret Kelliher said in a statement that she will reserve further comment on Olson until the legal process has run its course.
- All Things Considered, 12/08/2006, 5:22 p.m.