The wife of Minnesota State Sen. Jerry Relph, of St. Cloud, says that her husband has died at 76.
Republicans held a large dinner party on November 5, 2020, with more than 100 attendees at an arena event center, and Relph went into self-quarantine on Nov. 10 after learning of his exposure there and began experiencing symptoms three days later. Relph then went to an emergency room for his symptoms.
The Vietnam War veteran had not attended the most recent special sessions of the legislature.
Relph had voted along with all 35 Republicans and one Democratic state senator in July to suspend the peacetime emergency declared by Democratic Gov. Tim Walz to handle the pandemic.
“The emergency declaration was made so we could prepare for the projected surge and flatten the curve,” Relph said at the time. “Those goals have been accomplished and we no longer have any need for the emergency to be dealt with unilaterally by Gov. Walz.”
“I’m heartbroken to share that my husband, Jerry Relph, has passed away and entered his heavenly home. Jerry was a beloved husband, father, and grandfather. He was a Marine Corps veteran who served in Vietnam, an attorney, small businessman, and dedicated public servant in the Minnesota Senate,” Pegi Broker-Relph said in a statement. “I’d like to thank everyone at the legislature for the relationships and sense of family you provided for us over the last four years. I am profoundly grateful for all the love and support our family has received. From the bottom of my heart, thank you.”
Following Relph’s death, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka released the following statement:
“Senator Jerry Relph was a true friend and colleague loved by so many. For four years, he rolled up his sleeves and tackled tough issues for our state. Senator Relph will always be remembered as a dedicated public servant. He was already thinking of ways to have an impact on his community after narrowly losing his re-election. We are deeply saddened by his passing and offer our prayers and support to the Relph family.”
Last month, Minnesota Democrats called for Gazelka to resign from his leadership post, saying Senate Republicans didn’t notify Democratic colleagues and non-partisan Capitol staffers about gatherings that led to positive COVID-19 cases.
“My deepest condolences go out to Jerry’s family and loved ones. He was a dedicated public servant and a truly kind man,” said Senate DFL Leader Susan Kent. “He worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Minnesotans and he will be sincerely missed.”
Relph narrowly lost re-election to Democratic–Farmer-Labor Party candidate Aric Putnam before testing positive for the deadly virus.
DFL members called for the resignation of Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka after the Nisswa Republican, Relph, and state Sen. David Senjem (R-Rochester) all tested positive for the virus but did not notify Capitol staff or DFL members of the outbreak.