GOP activist still opposes vaccine mandates after Covid nearly killed him

By the time Mark Korin leaves the hospital, he will have lost 40 pounds and spent nearly two months battling COVID-19. And he still has a long recovery ahead.
The former Oak Grove mayor, chair of the Senate District 31 Republican Party and Trump supporter had refused the COVID-19 vaccine, believing he did not need it. Korin said he took zinc, Vitamin D, and Vitamin C supplements to boost his immune system, declining an opportunity to get vaccinated at a Walgreens in July when he was there to pick up some medications.

“You're talking to a guy who should be dead," Korin, 64, said in a Reformer interview from his hospital room, with his wife, Deb, present.

He first experienced shortness of breath and a cough on July 29. Within days, his oxygen saturation level had dipped to 78%, far below the 95% or higher expected in someone healthy. He was admitted to the hospital on Aug. 7, and about 10 days later he was placed on a ventilator, worrying he might die while he was intubated. He spent seven days on the ventilator, and has so far spent 44 days at Mercy Hospital in Coon Rapids.

“I always believed, it's just another virus," he said. “I was wrong. I will be the first to admit: If I had taken the vaccine, I believe that I may have gotten sick, I probably wouldn't be in the hospital. If I was in the hospital, I probably wouldn't be on the ventilator."

Across Minnesota and the country, ICUs and hospital beds are filling up with COVID-19 patients, the vast majority of whom are unvaccinated. This week, the number of hospitalized COVID-19 patients reached 757, the Minnesota Health Department reported, the highest number this year as the Delta variant spreads.

Across the country, health care systems are under strain, with some hospitals putting off elective procedures as they deal with a surge in COVID-19 patients. Last week, Idaho released statewide “crisis standards of care," giving hospitals, nurses and doctors an ethical framework for how to use scarce resources.

In recent days COVID-19 has resumed its place as the leading cause of death in America.

Korin said his near brush with death has changed his mind about the COVID-19 vaccine.

“The pros far outweigh the cons," he said.

But still, he is against the government requiring people to be vaccinated. He said people are reluctant to be vaccinated because they have grown to distrust institutions, including the government.

“You don't know how to trust," he said. “I think the general population has lost their faith, not only in the government, but in what we're being told. We believe it's being manipulated to the benefit of whoever is in power."

He and his wife have documented his journey on Facebook, providing near daily status updates on his condition. Some people have attacked Korin in the comments.

“It was so visceral. It was hatred," he said of some of the comments, which included people berating him for not being vaccinated, while others criticized him for his change of heart on the vaccine.

His recovery includes rebuilding his strength. He still struggles to walk on his own without becoming exhausted, and stairs are also difficult for him. He hopes to learn soon that he is well enough to leave the hospital.

Despite his long hospital stay, he plans to get vaccinated, taking his doctor's advice that the virus can mutate and vaccination will confer greater protection.

Minnesota Reformer is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Minnesota Reformer maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Patrick Coolican for questions: info@minnesotareformer.com. Follow Minnesota Reformer on Facebook and Twitter.

GOP state senator convenes private meeting to discuss female attire in Minnesota Senate

A bipartisan group of female state senators met last week on Zoom to discuss the attire of women in the Minnesota Senate, a DFL lawmaker confirmed, raising the prospect of a dress code a decade after a previous effort was scuttled.

This article was originally published at Minnesota Reformer

Led by Sen. Mary Kiffmeyer, R-Big Lake, the group includes Sen. Julie Rosen, R-Fairmont, Sen. Julia Coleman, R-Chanhassen, Sen. Ann Rest, DFL-New Hope, Sen. Lindsey Port, DFL-Burnsville, and Sen. Melissa Wiklund, DFL-Bloomington.

It's unclear why lawmakers convened to discuss a potential dress code — it's unknown if there have been recent sartorial faux pas — or whether the group will move to recommend what women should or shouldn't wear. Requests seeking comment from Kiffmeyer were not returned.

Rest, who was first elected to the House in 1984, said in an interview that she would not share what the group discussed during the Aug. 16 meeting. She defended the meeting, however, saying the conversation was private, and that she wasn't going to turn down an invitation to have the discussion.

The National Conference on State Legislatures shows a range of lawmaker dress codes across the country's statehouses, with regional variations. Jeans of any color are typically deemed unacceptable attire. Men typically have to wear a coat and tie.

In Wyoming, lawmakers can wear bolo ties “but the bolo must be worn tight with the top button of a collared shirt buttoned." Dress boots are allowed, but must be polished. In the Wisconsin Assembly, overcoats and hats are banned on the floor.

In the Minnesota Senate, male lawmakers are by custom required to wear a jacket and tie during floor proceedings, but it is not actually a formal rule, Rest pointed out.

A potential dress code has come up before at the Minnesota Legislature. In 2011, an effort to codify a dress code died because of a lack of consensus, Rest said.

“For men, appropriate attire is a suit or sport coat, dress slacks, a dress shirt, and a tie," the 2011 language said. For women, “appropriate attire includes a dress or skirt, dress slacks, and a blouse or sweater."

In the Minnesota Senate, what is considered appropriate dress has a fraught history.

The late state Sen. Nancy Brataas, an Independent Republican from Rochester, wore all sorts of neck ties, including scarves and bow ties, so that her male colleagues did not try to block her from speaking during floor debates.

“Some of the male senators at first didn't know if they would let her speak, because she didn't wear a tie. So she always wore a scarf," state Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, recalled in a 2014 obituary.

The Senate engaged in a heated debate earlier this year over another issue of decorum and attire when they rejected a mask mandate.

Sen. Ann Johnson Stewart, DFL-Wayzata, made light of the paradox in which senators do not have to don masks — despite their effectiveness against COVID-19 — even though they abide by a de facto dress code. She threatened to wear a bathing suit or bathrobe to highlight the contradiction.


Minnesota Reformer is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Minnesota Reformer maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Patrick Coolican for questions: info@minnesotareformer.com. Follow Minnesota Reformer on Facebook and Twitter.

'He is a perverted narcissistic sex offender': Minnesota GOP strategist paid teen girls with cash, gifts for sex, prosecutors say

Anton Lazzaro, a major Minnesota GOP donor and strategist, paid teenage girls with cash, gifts and lavish meals in exchange for sex, federal prosecutors said Tuesday, arguing against his release on home detention as he awaits trial.

Lazzaro, appearing in orange jail jumpsuit, pleaded not guilty to five counts of sex trafficking, three counts of obstruction, one count of attempted sex trafficking of a minor, and one count of conspiracy to sex traffic minors.

Tuesday was his first appearance since his Aug. 12 arrest and provided the most vivid details of the charges against Lazzaro, who had been a close friend of Minnesota Republican Party chair Jennifer Carnahan, who resigned from her post last week.

The lurid details in what promises to be a lengthy and ongoing story about a prominent GOP donor could continue to roil Republicans in their 2022 election efforts.

Brandon Brugger, a Minneapolis police officer who serves on a Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension task force, testified that the investigation began with a tip from a teenage girl and her family.

Brugger detailed that Lazzaro, 30, relied on Gisela Castro Medina, a 19-year-old University of St. Thomas student and chair of the College Republicans there, to recruit underage girls for him.

Brugger said the alleged victims ranged from 15- to 17 years of age, and he said Lazzaro paid them with cash, makeup, luxury handbags and vape pens.

He said Medina was paid for recruiting the girls, who were brought to his downtown Minneapolis condo at The Hotel Ivy. Brugger said Lazzaro once picked up one of the alleged victims in his Ferrari, but other times he would send a car sent by a ride-hailing app.

U.S. Attorney Laura Provinzino said Lazzaro had tried to get one of his alleged victims to sign a non-disparagement agreement in exchange for $1,000 on the day the victim and their family went to the police.

“Who asks a 16-year-old victim to sign an NDA?" Provinzino said.

Lazzaro's attorney, Zachary Lee Newland, alleged that the 16-year-old had first tried to financially blackmail Lazzaro before going to the police.

Newland also asked Brugger what the age of consent in Minnesota is, to which Brugger said 16 years old.

Brugger also testified that Medina's ex-boyfriend introduced Lazzaro to his current girlfriend, who is 19, and Lazzaro paid him $3,000 for the introduction. Lazzaro also paid Medina to tutor his girlfriend in high school algebra, according to Brugger. Newland called the tutoring a legitimate service.

Newland also pushed back by saying Lazzaro paid for the boyfriend's car repair, and that Brugger was misinterpreting that as payment for the introduction.

Lazzaro's attorney called on former GOP legislative candidate Yele-Mis Yang, who is a Lazzaro business partner, to testify on behalf of Lazzaro.

Yang said they met at a political event about six years ago and spoke highly of his business partner, who founded the property management company that Yang runs on a day-to-day basis.

Yang said he trusted Lazzaro with his life, as well as around his children, two boys who are 10 and 7. He called Lazzaro “down to earth," despite Lazzaro's flaunting of a jetsetter lifestyle on social media, where he posed with stacks of cash.

During cross examination, Provinzino noted that Yang does not have any young, teenage daughters, and she asked if he was aware that Lazzaro had a Pornhub channel called “Only Young Teens." Yang said he did not.

Some of the minor girls and their families listened to the hearing via phone conference.

Provinzino read statements from a handful of the girls and their family members.

“This is the very real and devastating result of what these evil people have done to my daughter," Provinzino said, reading a statement from the mother of alleged Victim A, who she said is suffering from PTSD, depression and anxiety.

“He is a perverted narcissistic sex offender," mother of Victim B said in a statement read in court.

Newland said Lazzaro had strong connections to the community, noting his participation in politics. He said their offer to monitor Lazzaro via internet-connected cameras installed in his home ensured he would not flee before his trial.

Provinzino also argued that the home detention plan was a way for Lazzaro to enjoy “a prison of privilege" at the Hotel Ivy.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Hildy Bowbeer ultimately ruled against allowing Lazzaro to be released on home detention, saying he had the means and ability to flee. She also said his 19th floor condo made it difficult for unannounced visits to be conducted by U.S. Probation and Pretrial Services officers.

Lazzaro's attorney also said Lazzaro expected an indictment as early as February, just two months after a search warrant was served and many of Lazzaro's items, cash and gold bars were seized. Yang testified he was aware of the raid.


Minnesota Reformer is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Minnesota Reformer maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Patrick Coolican for questions: info@minnesotareformer.com. Follow Minnesota Reformer on Facebook and Twitter.

Minnesota GOP in turmoil as 4 former executive directors call on 'morally bankrupt' party chair to resign

Four former Republican Party of Minnesota executive directors are calling on party Chair Jennifer Carnahan to resign.

The four executive directors are Christine Snell, Kevin Poindexter, Becky Alery and Andy Aplikowski.

This article was originally published at Minnesota Reformer

“As the four most recent MN GOP executive directors under Carnahan, we have a unique perspective into the toxic environment, inappropriate behavior and manipulation that she has facilitated," the joint statement said. “While we did not have knowledge of many of the saddening stories of sexual assault or harassment, unfortunately, we can corroborate and back up many of the other stories that have been shared to date."

They added: “Carnahan ruled by grudges, retaliation and intimidation."

In the days since the indictment of Carnahan's friend and Republican political donor Anton Lazzaro on charges of sex trafficking, a number of young women have stepped forward to say Carnahan mishandled allegations of sexual harassment leveled against party staff.

Former party officials have also described a toxic work environment; a former party political director told the Reformer she was outed as queer and subjected to verbal harassment.

Calls for Carnahan's ouster have grown, with GOP elected officials, including some in Minnesota House leadership, saying they have lost confidence in her stewardship of the state party.

The four former executive directors said they are calling for an independent investigation into the party's human resources department along with an external financial audit.

“There is still time to salvage the 2022 election cycle and prevent the atrocities we have heard form continuing to occur under her regime, but it will take swift decisive action," the statement said. “It will be impossible for our Party to earn back the trust of delegates, donors, activists, staff and voters if Carnahan remains chair."

Carnahan and other GOP officials have denounced Lazzaro — who has denied the allegations through his lawyer — and pledged to redirect to charity the more than $270,000 in contributions he has given to candidates, party units and PACs.

Former and current party officials say Carnahan has used non-disclosure agreements to stifle criticism. The party executive board voted Sunday to end them.

The former executive directors say now that they are no longer bound by those non-disclosure agreements, they are eager to share their stories.

The state party executive committee is set to meet Thursday night to hold a vote of confidence on Carnahan's leadership.

The state's highest elected Republicans, U.S. Reps. Tom Emmer, Michelle Fischbach, Jim Hagedorn, and Pete Stauber, have not issued statements on the situation and did not respond to requests seeking comment Wednesday.

The Reformer has reached out to Carnahan for comment.

Full statement from former MN GOP executive directors:

Ten years ago, Chair Tony Sutton resigned because under his leadership, the Republican Party of Minnesota was financially bankrupt. Today, the Party is morally bankrupt due to the leadership of Chair Jennifer Carnahan.

This week, thanks to the courageous efforts of a few of the MN GOP State Executive Committee members, the NDAs that have silenced the four of us and many others have been lifted. Since it appears that may change again in just over 24 hours, we felt it was important to take this opportunity – together – to make our voices heard before we are silenced again.

As the four most recent MN GOP Executive Directors under Carnahan, we have a unique perspective into the toxic environment, inappropriate behavior and manipulation that she has facilitated. While we did not have knowledge of many of the saddening stories of sexual assault or harassment, unfortunately, we can corroborate and back up many of the other stories that have been shared to date.

While Carnahan points to her re-election percentage as to why she should remain, we would argue that race may have had a different outcome if those of us under NDAs – some with non-disparagement clauses – were able to share our stories. And now, due to the blatant lies being pushed by Carnahan, HR Director Ron Huettl, other members of the Executive Committee, and members of the Personnel Committee we believe that it is our duty to do just that. To share our stories while we still can.

Carnahan ruled by grudges, retaliation, and intimidation. She delayed sharing lists from candidates for a variety of party offices so “her chosen person" could have a leg up. She blocked hires for the Victory program and the state party because she had a personal vendetta with the prospective employee or because they had filed a complaint against another employee. And she has thwarted former staffers from getting other jobs in our field or even tried to get them fired by complaining to their superiors.

Carnahan created an extremely toxic work environment, often yelling, demeaning and questioning loyalty. We would be reprimanded if we did not glowingly 'pump up' and stroke the ego of Carnahan in our rare public appearances. It has been all too common for her to cross professional boundaries by including staff in personal issues and drama. We have all accidentally received messages clearly meant for her friends containing private information of a personal nature that made us very uncomfortable. And, while we all understand the political world includes long hours, the chair would cross work/life boundaries on a nearly daily basis with calls and texts at all hours – often to discuss nothing related to the workplace or Republican cause.

But who could we turn to? The HR Director Ron Huettl who just sent out a glowing review, calling Carnahan the most “staff-friendly, compassionate" Chair he has ever worked for? And who often shared staff complaints with Carnahan violating his HR trust where the information was used against them? Or the Personnel Committee handpicked by Carnahan and filled with her best friends who she likes to gossip with?

And, most disturbing of all, we now know by the multitude of young women coming forward that Carnahan used her power to cover up allegations of sexual harassment and abuse. These credible allegations are sickening and the fact that these women were silenced by Carnahan and her HR department is beyond shameful.

Make no mistake, Carnahan not only refuses to accept her own responsibility for the mountain of dirty laundry being aired in recent days, she thinks she is the victim. Thankfully, we only suffered severe emotional and physical torment from the long hours and wrath of Carnahan.

Our hearts go out to victims and survivors of Carnahan who have had no choice but to go public with their shocking stories in the hopes that people would stop protecting Carnahan. It is time to stop believing the lies and put an end to the toxic, retaliatory, and dramatic reign of Carnahan.

Carnahan is very much the person the supposed “coup" is making her out to be. She has successfully insulated herself with loyal staff and packed the State Executive Board and committees with people who will vote exactly how she wants them to protect her. If Carnahan wasn't willing to drag down Big Brothers Big Sisters with this chaos, why would she not afford Republicans in this state the same opportunity of a clean slate?

We cannot continue to allow Carnahan to denigrate this organization and tarnish the Republican brand – it is not the Carnahan brand – while continuing to drive well-intentioned, talented, and active republicans to the curb. We cannot allow Carnahan and Huettl to continue to ignore the dozens of stories of victims of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and a hostile work environment.

We each have our own stories to share, and plan to do so. But, today, we stand united in our resolve that the state and our party deserve better than Carnahan as Chair.

We are calling for the immediate resignation of Carnahan, an independent investigation into the HR department along with an external financial audit.

If she will not resign, we implore the State Executive Committee, many of whom know the four of us closely, to listen to us, hear our stories, and make the right decision to end this cycle of pain and chaos.

There is still time to salvage the 2022 election cycle and prevent the atrocities we have heard from continuing to occur under her regime, but it will take swift decisive action. It will be impossible for our Party to earn back the trust of delegates, donors, activists, staff, and voters if Carnahan remains Chair.

Please stay tuned for more about our experiences working for the Republican Party of Minnesota under Jennifer Carnahan.

Signed,

Kevin Poindexter (MN GOP Executive Director May 2018 – November 2019)

Becky Alery (MN GOP Executive Director November 2019 – October 2020)

Christine Snell (MN GOP Executive Director February 2021 – April 2021)

Andy Aplikowski (MN GOP Political Director May 2020 – November 2020, Contractor April 2021, Executive Director May 2021 – August 2021)


Minnesota Reformer is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Minnesota Reformer maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Patrick Coolican for questions: info@minnesotareformer.com. Follow Minnesota Reformer on Facebook and Twitter.

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