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A Republican-endorsed candidate in Minnesota sparked controversy on social media this week after a video surfaced of him making a comment some have suggested incites violence.
In the video, Stephen Lowell, a candidate for the Senate District 52, addressed a crowd at an event last month when he urged supporters to get out a vote “before we have to vote with bullets.”
The comment prompted backlash from the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party and others who claimed it was the equivalent of telling them to take up arms.
“It is completely unacceptable that a candidate endorsed by the Minnesota Republican Party is talking about shooting his political opponents,” Minnesota DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said in a statement. Lowell did not specifically mention shooting anyone in the video.
A photo of Stephen Lowell, a Republican-endorsed candidate for Minnesota Senate District 52. (Stephen for Senate/Facebook)
In the video, Lowell described how societies unravel when their people no longer trust their institutions, such as the voting process.
“We need to grow our teeth back, fast,” Lowell can be seen telling the crowd in the video. “So, part of those teeth in this particular set of terms is voting with the ballot before we have to vote with bullets.”
He goes on to say: “Because at the end of the day, when people don’t believe that their elections are stable, they don’t believe that police will protect them, they stop using the democratic method. And so we have to bring back that faith, and we have to come out and vote.”
The Minnesota DFL Party chair said the state’s Republican Party should withdraw their endorsement of Lowell over the comment.
“Stephen Lowell’s violent, dehumanizing, and disturbing remarks embody the worst in our politics, and the Minnesota Republican Party should immediately begin the process of withdrawing their endorsement of him,” Martin said. “If Republican officials do not send a strong signal that this violent rhetoric will not be tolerated, they will bear responsibility for what follows as a result.”
Stephen Lowell, a Republican-endorsed candidate for Minnesota Senate District 52, received backlash for comments he made in a video during an event last month. (Stephen for Senate/Facebook)
Lowell addressed the controversy over Twitter, explaining his intended point further.
“Absolutely. If you’re honest (not that I expect it) you’ll note that in countries where they cannot agree on elections the populace tends to devolve into violence.”
In another tweet, he described his video as “a great ad-lib speech by a working-class American pushed to run for office because of horrible democrat leadership.”
During an interview with the Associated Press, Lowell said the comment was about how societies degrade.
“The purpose of the statement I made was the degree to which societies tend to degrade when people don’t have faith in the government in a very broad and general level,” Lowell said, citing the French Revolution. “At the end of the day, the point is when people don’t feel like their government represents them, countries get very unstable.”
The Minnesota DFL Party again scrutinized the response as “doubling down.”
The initial comment and subsequent video were made during a July event hosted by the Dakota County Patriots.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.