Two Minnesota GOP candidates say they were attacked, punched

In a sign of how heated the fall campaign has become, two Minnesota Republicans say they were attacked and punched in separate incidents over the weekend.

State Representative Sarah Anderson of Plymouth said she had confronted a man for kicking her campaign sign when he charged at her. First-time candidate Shane Mekeland of Becker said he suffered a concussion after a man punched him in the face at a Benton County restaurant.

Plymouth Police and the Benton County Sheriff said they had opened investigations into the incidents. Both candidates said they were stunned by their assailants. 

“The idea that they will physically attack me, that is un-Minnesotan, that is not how we operate, and that’s not how we solve problems in the state,” Anderson said.

Mekeland said he had stopped at a restaurant Friday to ask if he could hold a campaign event there. He was talking to a few people around a high-top table when a man in the group punched him “out of nowhere.”

Mekeland said he fell backward and blacked out when he hit the floor. He said he’d been discussing health care and taxes with the man, who at first seemed to agree with his positions.

“The last thing I heard is him say – I’ll keep out the colorful language – ‘You bleepin’ people don’t give a bleep about the middle class,’” Mekeland recalled.

Benton County Sheriff Troy Heck said he expected his office to take 7-10 days to do an investigation. Mekeland said police had already interviewed his assailant. He showed Fox 9 a medical document that confirmed his concussion diagnosis.

Anderson said the man kicking her campaign sign Sunday afternoon said he was an anarchist and that Anderson should kill herself. She said she drove to a nearby gas station where she tried to get a photo of the man as he walked down the road. 

That’s when Anderson said he charged and prevented her from shutting her car door.

“That’s when he just hauled off and punched me in the arm,” she said. “Then I put the car in reverse to just get out of there.”

Plymouth Police confirmed they were investigating but declined further comment. Anderson said police would be interviewing her attacker on Tuesday.

Both candidates said they planned to continue campaigning. Mekeland said he would no longer go door-to-door alone, while Anderson said she was campaigning with volunteers and alerting her husband to her whereabouts.

“Three weeks from now, I don’t want this to be the defining moment of my campaign,” Anderson said. “I refuse to allow this to change me as a person.”