ST. PAUL — Former congressman Jason Lewis, a Republican campaigning for Minnesota's U.S. Senate seat, has filed a federal lawsuit claiming Gov. Tim Walz's coronavirus emergency orders violate the Constitution.
In the lawsuit filed to United States District Court of Minnesota on Tuesday, May 19, Lewis and his official campaign are listed as plaintiffs, and Walz as the defendant. Lewis claims that Walz's executive orders have violated his rights to travel and hold large gatherings, and are therefore harming his campaign operations. The complaint notes that campaign activities, "such as rallies, meetings, dinners, and speeches," are not considered essential work by Walz's order.
Walz's "stay at home" orders lifted on Monday and some nonessential businesses have been allowed to open at partial capacity with sanitation and social distancing guidelines in place. Under Walz's updated "stay safe" order, restaurants and bars still cannot serve in-house patrons, and Minnesotans are not allowed to hold gatherings of 10 people or more — exclusions that strain Lewis's campaign activities.
In a Tuesday news release, Lewis called Walz's executive orders "unconstitutional power grabs," which he blamed for business closures and unprecedented unemployment numbers across the state.
"The overreach from these unprecedented lockdowns has moved beyond economic hardship and favoritism into the realm of threatening our most basic liberties, including the fundamental right to travel and meet with friends and neighbors," Lewis said.
Attorney General Keith Ellison stood behind Walz's executive orders when responding to Lewis's lawsuit on Tuesday, saying the orders are "fully within his legal and constitutional authority, and my office will fully defend them in court." He pointed to other states' whose governors have issued similar orders in hopes to "flatten the curve" and slow the spread of the novel coronavirus.
"Minnesotans don’t need frivolous lawsuits while a deadly serious pandemic is claiming their loved ones’ lives," Ellison said. "Real leaders will step up to fight it rather than pulling political stunts."
Teddy Tschann, a spokesperson for Walz, responded on Tuesday saying coronavirus "has forced the state to take drastic action to keep Minnesotans safe, but it’s action that is within the Governor’s authority."
"All of the Governor’s actions have been grounded in the need to protect the health and safety of Minnesotans, and he will continue to work to find ways to get Minnesotans back to work and to a place where they can safely gather in large groups," he said.
Lewis is seeking a judge enjoin and prohibit Walz from enforcing his coronavirus executive orders, as well as reimbursement for legal fees. A spokesperson for Lewis did not immediately respond to questions about how the lawsuit is being funded.