Saturday, February 4th, 2023
Saturday, February 4th, 2023

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MN: Hackbarth out as chairman, for now

St. Paul – Days after he was named chair of the Environment,
Energy and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee, Rep. Tom
Hackbarth, R-Cedar, was stripped of his position.

At least temporarily.

The drama at the state Capitol unfolded after it came to light
that on Nov. 16, Hackbarth was pulled over and handcuffed by St.
Paul police after being spotted in a Planned Parenthood clinic with
a handgun holstered to his hip.

Hackbarth, who has a permit to carry a weapon in public, said he
didn’t know he was parked at a clinic that performs abortions, and
said he was in the area to check up on a woman he’d met on the
Internet.

The eight-term legislator was not arrested or charged, and
reacquired his gun after officers temporarily confiscated it.

But it’s unclear what his legislative fate will be. In a brief
statement after the situation came to light, Rep. Kurt Zellers, the
incoming House Speaker, said Hackbarth has been suspended “from any
current and pending leadership roles within the House GOP
caucus.”

“The suspension will remain in effect until the issue is fully
resolved,” said Zellers, R-Maple Grove.

Zellers was not available earlier this week to clarify his
comment. A spokesperson in his office said there would be no
additional comments at this time. Hackbarth didn’t return calls for
comment.

Since the legislative session doesn’t begin until Jan. 4, 2011,
it appears there’s no immediate need to decide Hackbarth’s
fate.

Hackbarth had been a previous chair of the Environment and
Natural Resources Committee, and sportsmen supported his selection
to chair the committee during the next session. But depending on
what Zellers decides, there could be someone else in the seat.

“Political leaders are held to a higher standard than the
general public,” said Garry Leaf, executive director of Sportsmen
for Change.

Hackbarth told the Pioneer Press the story sounds “really weird
and odd.”

Hackbarth, 58, told police that he was in the area looking for a
woman he had been dating and he wasn’t aware that he was parked
outside a clinic where abortions are performed, according to a
police report. The clinic has a sign on its outer wall banning guns
even by conceal-and-carry permit holders. A knowing violation of
such a posting can lead to a petty misdemeanor citation and a $25
fine, but there are exceptions for parking lots.

Responding to a call from a clinic security guard, police
officers pulled Hackbarth’s truck over soon after he left the
parking lot and approached his vehicle with their guns drawn. An
officer handcuffed the lawmaker as they sought answers.

According to the police report, Hackbarth said he was checking
up on a girlfriend who was supposedly at a restaurant in the
neighborhood and possibly with another man. Hackbarth, who said he
is divorcing his wife of 25 years, said he had met the woman he was
dating through an online matchmaking site.

A clinic security guard spotted the gun when Hackbarth was
changing his coat in the parking lot. Security camera footage shows
him walking through the lot and into a nearby alley before getting
back in his truck and leaving.

The report said Hackbarth admitted being “jealous” but stressed
that he always carries a weapon. Officers worried about
“stalking-like behavior” so they kept Hackbarth’s gun. He retrieved
it after the incident.

“I understand why the police and the security guard thought what
they might have thought, but it really was insignificant to me,”
Hackbarth told the Pioneer Press.

In their report, officers said they were unable to track the
woman down. Hackbarth said the relationship with the woman is
over.

“Sure enough, she lied to me and I’m done with it,” he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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