Aug 20, 2021 - Politics

Minnesota GOP chair resigns following firestorm over indicted donor, harassment claims

Jennifer Carnahan

Jennifer Carnahan, pictured at a Trump rally in 2020. Photo: Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

Minnesota Republican Party chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan has agreed to resign amid mounting controversies over her alleged personal and professional conduct.

Backdrop: Carnahan's close relationship with Anton Lazzaro, a young GOP donor arrested on federal sex trafficking charges last week, sparked fresh scrutiny into her tumultuous tenure as leader.

  • The Lazzaro scandal triggered a deluge of public accusations from former staff and activists who said she fostered a toxic work environment and failed to address sexual harassment allegations that emerged over the last year.

What happened: The MNGOP executive board voted 8-7 Thursday night to approve a three-month severance package, worth approximately $38,000, to seal her departure, Forum News Service reports. Carnahan was the deciding vote.

  • The board also authorized investigations into the party's finances and HR protocols, per the Star Tribune.

What she's saying: Carnahan, who is married to Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn, has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. In a statement issued Thursday, she said she is "confident a full investigation will uncover the facts and prove my innocence."

  • “However, I signed up for this party to help elect Republicans and I want to ensure we continue to do that. At this point, it’s in the best interest of the party and my mental health to resign from my position."

Of note: Several executive board members allied with Carnahan also resigned Thursday.

What's next: GOP delegates will select a new leader as the state party seeks to rebuild ahead of the 2022 midterms. Costs related to the fallout, including a pledge to donate Lazzaro's sizable contributions to charity, threaten to further strain the party's financial troubles.

  • "Right now there is no [Minnesota Republican Party] brand," GOP activist Sheri Auclair, told the Star Tribune. "Right now the state party is in ruins."

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