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DFL Party Chair Ken Martin, Walz call for resignation of embroiled Sen. Nicole Mitchell

Mitchell has been embroiled in scandal ever since she was arrested in April for allegedly breaking into her stepmother’s Detroit Lakes home to steal some sentimental items of her late father, including his ashes.

Sen. Nicole Mitchell, DFL-Woodbury, did not answer questions from members of a Senate ethics committee on May 7, 2024. Her attorney, Bruce Ringstrom Jr., said Mitchell was pleading the Fifth Amendment. Photo by Michelle Griffith/Minnesota Reformer.

By Michelle Griffith, Minnesota Reformer

Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Chair Ken Martin on Thursday morning called for Sen. Nicole Mitchell, DFL-Woodbury, to resign.

DFL Gov. Tim Walz later joined Martin’s call for Mitchell’s resignation, the Star Tribune reported.

Mitchell has been embroiled in scandal ever since she was arrested in April for allegedly breaking into her stepmother’s Detroit Lakes home to steal some sentimental items of her late father, including his ashes.

The first-term senator was charged with first-degree burglary — a felony — which comes with a mandatory 180-day jail sentence and a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $35,000 fine.

Her next court appearance is scheduled for June 10, but her attorney — Bruce Ringstrom Jr. — has asked the judge to push the date back to July 1 because he will be in a trial in another county and said he needs more time to review the evidence, according to court records.

“While Sen. Mitchell is entitled to her day in court, her continued refusal to take responsibility for her actions is beneath her office and has become a distraction for her district and the Legislature,” Martin said in a statement. “Now that her constituents have had full representation through the end of the legislative session, it is time for her to resign to focus on the personal and legal challenges she faces.”

Martin’s call for Mitchell’s resignation is likely to increase pressure on her to quit, as the longtime DFL Party chair can use his vast political and fundraising network to ice out Mitchell, while damaging leaks to the media are also a possibility. 

Ringstrom in a statement said that Mitchell still doesn’t intend to resign.

“Sen. Mitchell has served her constituents, including during the final weeks of the 2024 Minnesota Legislative session, and plans to continue serving them now that the session has adjourned,” Ringstrom said. “Sen. Mitchell has heard from many in her community who support her work and believe in her right to due process under the law. Therefore, until her criminal case is fully and finally adjudicated, Sen. Mitchell will continue to serve her constituents as the duly elected state senator from District 47.”

If Mitchell resigns by June 8, a special election to replace her could be held on Nov. 5 along with the rest of the general election ballot.

Senate Minority Leader Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, decried Martin’s statement, saying Democrats, who control the Senate 34-33, are only now calling for Mitchell’s resignation because they were able to use her vote to pass their agenda during the recently ended legislative session.

“Democrats abused their political majority and embraced Sen. Mitchell because it served their political purposes instead of working in a bipartisan way for Minnesotans. Anyone paying attention could see this coming — now that they no longer need her vote, they are ready to cast her aside,” Johnson said in a statement. “This shameless pursuit of political power is not what Minnesotans deserve from their elected leaders.”

A Senate ethics committee earlier this month delayed taking action on an ethics complaint against Mitchell. Senate Republicans in the complaint argued that Mitchell had violated the Minnesota Senate’s standards of ethical conduct when she allegedly broke into her stepmother’s home.

The Senate ethics committee is scheduled to meet again on June 12, but that date could be pushed back if Mitchell’s next court appearance is delayed.

In a statement published the day after her arrest, Mitchell said she was conducting a welfare check on her stepmother and startled her. Mitchell denied stealing anything from the home and said her stepmother has Alzheimer’s and associated paranoia. 

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