As a lab technician for 3M, Ms. Relph tests industrial masks. “The fact that people deny the science behind the masks makes me even more angry,” she says. She recalled that a senatorial colleague of her father had stopped by her family, without a mask, while her father was in the hospital. “At close range he said, ‘I don’t think it’s as bad as they tell us,” Ms. Relph said. “My father was dying. These are people who think they are good, kind, compassionate, and yet they don’t behave that way.
On November 3, President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. comfortably won Minnesota, but Republicans held their majority in the state Senate, thanks to force in rural areas.
When Mr. Relph attended the dinner two days later, he seemed to narrowly win re-election in his swing district. But as more ballots were counted, his Democratic opponent slightly ahead, winning by 315 votes. Democrats only needed to return two seats for a majority in the Senate. Although they won Mr. Relph’s district, they lost their own seat and the Republicans retained control.
Ms Relph said could have cost her father’s ambivalent embrace support of her father with the Republican base. He has already co-sponsored a bipartisan bill aimed at targeting economic aid to the Somali community. This has earned him the nickname “Jihadi Jerry” among staunch Trump supporters, his daughter said.
Last week, as the legislature returned for its 2021 session, senators held a moment of silence for Mr. Relph. Mr. Gazelka called him “a great senator, a true friend”.
The majority leader also led his party to block a Democratic proposal to require masks in public spaces on the Capitol, flouting a statewide mask mandate imposed by the governor in indoor environments. . (The legislature is not subject to governor’s orders.) Republicans questioned about the effectiveness of masks. But Mr. Gazelka included wording in a resolution “strongly encouraging” the wearing of masks.
Ms Kent, the Democratic leader, said she recently noticed Mr Gazelka himself still wears a mask in the Capitol, where previously he did not. In addition to Mr. Relph’s death, Mr. Gazelka’s mother-in-law died in December after contracting Covid-19.