Chalking tires, video surveillance in dispute over residency in GOP-held Senate district

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After the 2020 Census, the boundaries of Gene Dornink’s southern Minnesota district were altered, the Republican state senator had to relocate from Hayfield to Brownsdale.


However, Keith Haskell, a criminally-trained owner of an auto detailing company and the campaign manager for Lisa Hanson, suspected Dornink was not actually living in his new area during a critical period for determining residency.


He visited each house, he said, many times, filming and recording as he went, documenting what he saw.


span style=”font weight: 400 At the time, absolutely zero traffic, overnight vehicles, lights on, shades continuously open, lights on day and night, no lights,” Haskell explained to MinnPost on Friday. “Cars that parked there occasionally had lots of general debris, indicating that they had sat there for some time.” We chalked tires and other things to determine if they moved .”


This work forms the basis of a petition to Minnesota Supreme Court, which Dornink calls “frivolous”. The petition seeks to remove the Republican-endorsed incumbent from the ballot. Judy Olson, Glenville filed the paperwork on Friday. She accuses Dornink not of living in Senate District 23. According to the filing, Haskell is named as the “petitioner’s investigative expert span>


span style=”font weight: 400 This is an absurd complaint,” Dornink stated in a written statement to reporters. “I have been living in Brownsdale since May. These investigators may not have seen me six times, but I’m working during the day and campaigning at night. I’ve been receiving a wonderful reception at the doors, parades and fairs and I will continue on the campaign trail .”


Chief Justice Lorie Gildea directed Olson, petitioner, explain why the legal challenge couldn’t have been filed sooner. Absentee voting began for the primary on June 24. The petition can be responded to by others until Monday.

This filing is part of a contentious contest that pits two Republicans against one another in a district where Dornink just two years ago defeated a longtime Democratic incumbent from Austin span style=”font weight: 400 ;”>. It is also one of the few districts in which incumbent GOP Senators are being challenged from their political right.

Hanson was a prominent figure for her defiance of the Gov. Tim Walz placed pandemic restrictions on her Albert Lea wine bar. Hanson was sentenced for her refusal to close her business in winter 2020. She also criticized Dornink, saying he isn’t conservative enough or doesn’t fight against Democratic leadership as hard as he should.


Haskell, who comes from a diverse background, including being a lay pastor and leading a church, declined to disclose whether he was paid or hired to investigate Dornink’s residency. He stated that he was the campaign manager for Hanson in the earlier part of the year, but decided to quit due to too much time commitment.

Haskell stated that he has decades’ of experience in investigation, including security and anti-shoplifting. According to Haskell’s declaration to court, he visited Dorninks’ properties in Hayfield and Glenville May 8, and then stopped at Senator Brownsdale’s address in the district on May 25, according his statement. Haskell stated that he heard rumors about Dornink’s absence from the area and talked to neighbors who said there was little traffic. He said that three Dornink vehicles were present at the property in the middle of July. The shades were pulled, and the lights were on.

According to the Minnesota Constitution, a candidate must have lived in their district for at LEAST six months prior to the general election. This year it is Nov. 8.

Haskell has been in trouble with the law. He was convicted in 2018 of impersonating an officer by chasing two teenagers, who he believed had stolen $10 worth snacks from an Owatonna supermarket. After the teenager began to attack him in an altercation, Haskell was found guilty of using tear gas against one of them. He pleaded guilty in South Dakota to theft. He was also cited earlier in the year for driving with a suspended license to Winona.


“I’m not proud of everything I’ve ever done.” span style=”font weight: 400 ” Haskell stated that he has never told anyone that he doesn’t have a past. “I’m not proud .”


Hanson did not return a request for comment. Dornink isn’t the only lawmaker to have to relocate after the redistricting process. In one instance, Sen. Torrey Youstrom moved from Elbow Lake to Alexandria. Dornink’s Hayfield home is now located in the same district as Sen. Carla Nelson (R-Rochester).


Other legislators were moved into the same district in Minnesota, prompting others, including Sens. Carrie Ruud and Julie Rosen, Melisa Lopez Franzen decided to retire instead of moving or running against another sitting lawmaker.

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