Tributes to Jerry Relph show collaborations across the political spectrum


Grateful associates of St. Cloud Senator Jerry Relph have praised his ability to work across the political spectrum since Friday, when Relph’s wife announced he had passed away.

Relph was a single-term Republican senator who served the Purple District around St. Cloud. He contracted COVID-19 in November. His exact cause of death has not been shared.

Relph opposed Governor Tim Walz’s emergency powers this summer. But at a St. Cloud Times candidates forum in October, Relph said he supported mask warrants.

RELATED: St. Cloud Sen. Jerry Relph, who tested positive for COVID-19, has died

He was one of the main authors of the state’s COVID-19 response bill in March. He supported a number of other bipartisan efforts, including a study on the extension of the Northstar commuter train. And in 2019, he launched the creation of an East African Development Fund.

Relph, 76, was a disabled Vietnam War veteran. He served in the Marines as a first lieutenant and was exposed to the herbicide Agent Orange, which led to prostate cancer, he told the St. Cloud Times earlier this year.

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Many who knew Relph took to Twitter this weekend to offer their condolences, comment on his kindness and share stories about his collaborations.

Former Rep. Erin Maye Quade, D-Apple Valley, said Relph was the only Senate Republican who would meet with her over a bill against sexual harassment.

“He was caring and kind,” Quade wrote on Twitter. “My deepest condolences to his family and loved ones. “

Kim Pettman, who identifies as a disabled activist, said Relph would welcome her to Capitol Hill, respond to invitations to community events and “listen to people in the public.”

“He listened. He didn’t always agree with everything people said. But he gave you time and listened,” said Pettman, who lived in Sauk Rapids. “He showed up a lot.

“He loved solving problems. And he loved working across the aisle,” Pettman added.

Relph lost a reelection offer this fall to DFLer Aric Putnam. Putnam shared a prepared statement on Sunday describing Relph as “a truly dedicated public servant,” and took a more outspoken tone on Twitter.

“I’m surprised how much this hit me, but I liked the guy,” Putnam tweeted. “This shouldn’t have happened to him, to anyone. I hope everyone who mourns his loss will find peace and gratitude in knowing him.”

Aric Putnam, left, and Jerry Relph

During his political career, Relph also worked with Asma Nizami, advocacy director for Muslim women at Reviving Sisterhood.

“Senator Relph was the co-author of our bill to eliminate the statute of limitations for reporting sexual assault. He was one of only three Republican senators who took the time to hear our stories. disagreed on everything, but he was kind and welcoming when most of his group weren’t, “Nizami tweeted.

Relph’s work and his death caught the attention of Aaron Sojourner, an associate professor in the Department of Labor and Organizations at the University of Minnesota, who tweeted: “Senator Relph has partnered across the aisle and rooms with Rep. Dave Pinto (D-St. Paul) to hold regular meetings to learn more about, discuss and elevate the critical period prenatal development at the age of 3. I greatly respect her commitment to the families of MN and hope that we will make her memory a blessing. “

Other Republicans have also lamented Relph’s death. Here are the comments of a few.

Eighth district Congressman Pete Stauber: “I am incredibly sad to learn of the passing of Senator Jerry Relph. He was a strong supporter of our veterans and he will be sorely missed. My heart is with his family during this difficult time.

Sixth district Congressman Tom Emmer: “Jacquie and I are saddened to learn of the passing of Senator Jerry Relph and extend our condolences to his wife, Pegi, and their entire family. We are grateful for all that Jerry has done to serve St. Cloud in the legislature and know he will be sorely missed. “

In this May 2017 file photo, Senator Jerry Relph, R-St.  Cloud, representing Tama Theis, R-St.  Cloud, former representative Jim Knoblach, R-St.  Cloud, and now Senator Jeff Howe, R-Rockville, speak at a joint meeting of the region's cities at the River's Edge Convention Center.

Old state Representative Nick Zerwas, R-Elk River: “My friend Senator Jerry Relph and I have worked together on many health and social services (HHS) issues over the years. He has served his community admirably and I am fortunate to have known him . “

And here are some more reactions from DFLers and an independent, as shared on Twitter.

Senator David Tomassoni, I-Chisholm: “My sincere thoughts, prayers and condolences to the family and friends of Jerry Relph. Over a few beers I discovered that he is a multi-faceted, intelligent and funny person , a pragmatic senator.… Just a good guy and he loved opera. Rest in peace my friend. “

Senator Matt Klein, D-Mendota Heights: “Jerry Relph was nice and he cared about people. I will try to live a life that lives up to his. I will try to serve in a way that bears its torch.

Representative Heather Edelson, D-Edina: “A sad day. Senator Jerry Relph was a nice person. Contrary to what so many people think, Democrats and Republicans can get along and get along. Thank you for your service, Senator. You we will be missed. “

Nora Hertel is the government watch reporter for the St. Cloud Times. Contact her at 320-255-8746 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @nghertel.

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