Congressman Jim Hagedorn (R-Blue Earth), a man the Washington Examiner once called “the worst Republican candidate in America,” is known for his hyper-conservative hot takes. In his blogging days, he called two female senators “undeserving bimbos in tennis shoes,” deemed consensual sex between two men “an abomination,” and referred to vice presidential hopeful Sarah Palin as, simply, “HOT.”
But after he was sworn in, he started getting almost weekly visits from a group of his more left-leaning constituents: the local chapter of the liberal volunteer group Indivisible. Its main goal, according to the Mankato Free Press, was to convince Hagedorn to hold more town halls and public forums, along with highlighting issues its members care about – like stopping the detention of children on the southern border.
“For a while, it was about three to five people, maximum,” Indivisible member and St. Peter constituent Keri Johnson says. The visits usually took about 15 minutes, and they’d be on their way. But last month, Hagedorn held a last-minute phone town hall in Nicollet County, which wasn’t publicized in advance and took place in the middle of a workday.
“So many of us didn’t get a call to participate,” Johnson said. So later that month, a larger than usual group – more than 30 people, according to the Free Press – joined Indivisible at Hagedorn’s Mankato office to get a word in edgewise.
About a week later, another wave turned up to share concerns about children in refugee camps living in squalor. The property manager responded by refusing to let them in and calling the police. According to a report on the incident, he said the Indivisible crowd was making his tenants “fearful.” Once police got on the scene, they determined the crowd wasn’t doing anything disrespectful and promptly left.
Still, that was apparently the last straw. On Monday, Hagedorn sent a letter to the Indivisible chapter saying his staff was “no longer available” to meet with them and accused them of deliberately wasting their time.
“On Tuesday, June 18, one of your group’s leaders admitted to a member of my staff that your group is using visits to our district office to keep staff from attending to their other work,” he wrote. “Such tactics represent a disservice to every taxpayer and ever resident of Minnesota’s First District, particularly those with pressing case work needs.”
He said he was “honored and privileged” to serve his constituents, “even those” with whom he disagrees. But he's not about to change his stance on the border, or working with “like-minded colleagues and President Trump” to “keep moving America in the right direction.”
“My district office is not a campaign office,” he wrote. If they had something to say, they could write, or come to his upcoming town hall meetings. Hagedorn didn’t respond to interview requests.
The letter “surprised and disappointed” Johnson. She says Indivisible doesn’t mean to waste staff time. Its leadership reviewed video of the June 18 visit and could find nothing like the scene Hagedorn describes. Besides, banning members from the office effectively ensures “hundreds, if not thousands” of people Hagedorn represents won't have access to their congressman.
“It’s concerning that constituents voicing their concerns is being seen as a disruption,” she says.
Indivisible isn’t taking this lying down. The chapter is planning a demonstration in Mankato’s Jackson Park to protest what they’re calling an “unenforceable” and possibly “unlawful” ejection.
“This is a blatant attempt to change the story, to make it about a liberal mob – not about violating laws on refugee status, breaking up families, and caging children in abhorrent conditions,” the Facebook event says.
But they're not about to give Hagedorn a reason to call the police again. The protest will be “peaceful” and “legal,” the page says. Nobody representing Indivisible will approach his office. But they certainly hope he’s paying attention.