ALEXANDRIA, Minn. (KMSP) - A Minnesota lawmaker refused to meet with a group of local students who claim they want to have a civil conversation with her about politics. The feud blew up over social media and is now getting national attention.
“Our initial goal and it’s still our goal is we want to meet with Rep. [Mary] Franson to talk about our concerns,” said Jack Ballou, a member of the Alexandria High School Democrats.
“I don’t meet with partisan organizations,” said Rep. Mary Franson.
The dust-up between the Alexandria Area High School Democratic Club and Republican State Representative Mary Franson started recently when the students wanted to speak with her about legislation related to climate change and college affordability.
Club leaders say they tried contacting her several times by phone and email, each time stating not only were they her constituents, but also associated with the Democratic Club.
Ballou was recently elected as a national officer for the High School Democrats of America.
“I think it’s really a microcosm of what’s happening at our national stage—people just aren’t talking to each other,” said Ballou.
Representative Franson told Fox 9 she offered to meet the students at a recent clothing drive for the homeless—a public space where she would feel comfortable talking with minors without parents present.
“Nothing to do with me not wanting to meet with Democrats, it has everything to do with we all have to be careful in today’s world,” said Rep. Franson.
When the students say they never got a response to a meeting, they took to Twitter. Screenshots of their conversation with Franson on both her personal and official page show the thread where she wrote in part “isn’t your group actively campaigning against me?”
The student group replied back, “Just because we are of different parties doesn’t mean we shouldn’t meet and talk out our differences.”
“They are utilizing the Alexandria Area High School Democrats to fundraise and campaign for my opponent,” said Rep. Franson.
“People were asking us where to donate on Twitter, so we put it out there that was never our initial goal at all,” said Emma Reilly, a member with the AAHS Democrats.
The students acknowledge they stand for progressive candidates and values, but say they are not affiliated with any campaigns. Rep. Franson says she would be willing to meet with the students, but some rules would apply.
“If the parents were around and the school was ok with that—that’s fine,” said Rep. Franson.
“We wanted a meeting, we still want a meeting, that’s still the goal here,” said Reilly.