Franson rejects call to resign
ST. PAUL -- Protesters' chants for Rep. Mary Franson to resign Thursday only strengthened her resolve to remain on the job.
She offered her third apology for a video that some found offensive to Minnesota's poor. But the Alexandria Republican said "I have gotten great support."
Protesters' actions Thursday "only make me more committed to helping the poor out of poverty," she said.
More than a dozen chanting and emotional protesters organized by the Welfare Rights Committee jammed a small hallway in front of a meeting Franson was to attend in the State Office Building, across the street from the Capitol. Later, a liberal organization submitted a petition demanding that she apologize for a video she posted on YouTube a week ago.
In the video, a weekly report to her constituents, she quoted from a "little funny clip" that said it was ironic that the federal government is pleased to distribute the most food stamps ever while the park service "asks us to please not feed the animals, because the animals may grow dependent and not learn to take care of themselves."
Democrats and left-leaning groups immediately began criticizing Franson.
"This is a war on conservative women," she said in an interview.
On Thursday, protesters confronted her with signs such as "People are not animals ever," "If people are animals, Mary Franson is a rat" and "Rep. Franson, you are out of touch."
State troopers and House sergeants at arms officials escorted Franson through a side door into the meeting room, and protesters pushed their way into the entry of the meeting room.
House Agriculture Chairman Rod Hamilton, R-Mountain Lake, diffused the heated atmosphere, where protesters were shouting and one young woman held her baby over a railing, by explaining that the committee is the most bipartisan in the House and not the place for such a protest. Rep. Terry Morrow, DFL-St. Peter, agreed.
Franson sat in the meeting sober faced and quiet for the short time that protesters looked on.
The protesters moved on to Franson's office five floors above the meeting room, but did not stay long.
Later, Ryan Furlong and Stephanie Fenner of the Alliance for a Better Minnesota presented a Franson aide what they said were 2,500 electronic signatures on a petition calling for Franson to apologize.
"I will not let them dictate how I apologize," Franson said.
The lawmaker apologized in a Tweet last weekend, in a Monday interview with the Alexandria Echo Press and again in a Thursday statement.
Franson called the protests "intimidation and bullying."
"The protesters here today exemplify the abusive nature of their political involvement by demanding my resignation and silence," she said. "They don't engage on the tragedy of dependency and poverty because they have no solutions, only threats and theatrics."
The Welfare Rights Committee, which frequently protests what members consider welfare attacks, said the first-term legislator should resign.
"She is not fit to be in public office," Kim Defranco said.
Comments made in Thursday's protest were calm compared to some that were emailed to Franson. They described violent acts, including death threats.
One man who emailed her said he would protest in front of her home Saturday. Franson said she has other plans and will not be home.
The representative reported the threats to Douglas County sheriff and state Capitol Security officials.
"The vulgar emails have stopped," she said.
Franson said the threats are not affecting her work, but she said they have forced more work on House staff and security officials.
"I am not going to let this affect my life," she said.
The first-term representative said recent attacks on her are indications that "the left doesn't like outspoken conservative women."
She said the attacks stem from her involvement in stopping the formation of child care provider unions.
Don Davis reports for Forum Communications Co.