A Republican legislator in Minnesota refuses to meet with a group of students from her district because they’re Democrats.
Rep. Mary Franson (R) shut down the Alexandria Area High School (AAHS) Democrats after the group reached out to her on Twitter on Friday and said, “We’ve made some calls to your office, and haven’t recieved [sic] a response, but as politically active, community centered students we’d love to have a meeting with you soon to address our concerns, and have a respectful productive talk.”
The group went on to propose a meeting at Franson’s official legislative office. Franson replied by dismissing the AAHS Democrats as a “partisan” organization.
“I don’t meet with partisan groups in my office — besides, isn’t your group actively campaigning against me?” she wrote, before suggesting that the group should seek a meeting with a local state senator, Bill Ingebrigtsen (R). (The founder of AAHS Democrats, Jack Ballou, told ThinkProgress he’s in fact met with Ingebrigtsen through his role in another student organization.)
AAHS Dems responded by pointing out that “[j]ust because we are of different parties doesn’t mean we shouldn’t meet and talk our our differences. We actually think that’s necessary, regardless of what campaign some of our members are on! We are constituents who have concerns.”
Franson replied with a curt dismissal.
“AAHS Dems is a partisan group,” she wrote. “Thanks for playing.”
Franson came under such intense criticism for her brusque interaction with the student group that she locked down her official legislative Twitter account for a period of time over the weekend. On Monday morning, she responded to the uproar by tweeteing that “[t]here’s more to the story than meets the eye,” but added that she’s not at liberty to talk about it because “it would appear to be bullying AND THEY ARE MINORS.”
But in an interview with ThinkProgress, Jack Ballou, founder of AAHS Dems, said Franson’s tweet represents an attempt to “grasp at thin air.”
“I was in the high school page program at the state House and I was able to meet with her one on one, and I was a minor back then,” said Ballou, who was elected this past summer as a National Officer for the High School Democrats of America. “We’re still constituents and I’m not sure what legal issue would arise.”
Ballou said AAHS Dems wanted to meet with Franson to discuss issues of concerns to students, adding that other local Republicans have at least made a legislative assistant available in response to meeting requests.
“Student debt — I’m a senior looking at college, and what can she do as a state legislator to make sure college can be more affordable and accessible to all students?” he said. “Climate — although she’s a climate denier, it’s still worth a shot. There needs to be those discussions or else nothing is going to happen.”
Ballou said that while some people from the Alexandria community have said they’ve seen his viral exchange with Franson, he hopes more do.
“I think we’re all concerned that it’s not really reaching this local community as much as it should,” he said. “There are a lot of reasonable people out here, and if they saw it I think it would change their votes.”
Since her back-and-forth with AAHS Democrats, Franson has blocked the group.
We are again disappointed to see that Representative Franson has blocked us from her twitter. Especially since we’ve remained respectful. pic.twitter.com/plpNhoOncS
— AAHS Dems (@AlexMNHSD) December 18, 2017
Just last month, Franson — a staunch Donald Trump supporter whose personal Twitter avatar featured her wearing a red Trump hat — deleted her non-legislative Twitter account after she responded to the election of two transgender candidates to the Minneapolis City Council with a stunningly transphobic tweet.
“A guy who thinks he’s a girl is still a guy with a mental health condition,” she wrote.
Since first being elected to the Minnesota legislature in 2010, Franson has established a reputation for making offense, outrageous remarks, such as characterizing an anti-bulling bill as “fascism” and an “attack on the bible and conservative Christians.” In March 2012, she compared people who use food stamps to wild animals who are fed by park-goers. The next month, she tweeted that the celebration of Earth Day “absolutely infuriates her,” adding that to her the day is the “celebration of a Pagan holiday, worship of Nature and not God’s Nature.”