REDWOOD COUNTY, Minn. — Two prominent Minnesota elected officials were hospitalized following a Wednesday, Aug. 4, car/semi collision in southwestern Minnesota, where they were attending the Farmfest agriculture expo, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter and the Minnesota State Patrol.
State Sen. Melisa Franzen, DFL-Edina, and State Auditor Julie Blaha were said to have suffered non-life-threatening injuries.
According to the State Patrol’s preliminary report, a Jeep Cherokee driven by Blaha collided with a semi truck shortly after 5 p.m. in rural Redwood County.
The Cherokee was southbound on County Road 13 when it collided with an eastbound semi on Minnesota 67 in Three Lakes Township.
Blaha, 51, and Franzen, 41, were taken to the Redwood Falls hospital with injuries that weren’t considered life-threatening.
The truck driver, 70-year-old Patrick Crain of Franklin, Minnesota, was not injured.
The State Patrol said road conditions at the time of the crash were good, alcohol was not a factor, the Jeep’s air bag had deployed and all three motorists were wearing seat belts.
It wasn’t clear from the report if the intersection was controlled or which vehicle had the right of way.
Earlier Wednesday night, a spokeswoman for the Senate DFL Caucus released the following statement: “State Senator Melisa Franzen (DFL-Edina) and State Auditor Julie Blaha were in a car accident earlier this evening travelling home from a trip to Farmfest. We’ve spoken to Senator Franzen and she is excepted to be released from the hospital tonight.”
A spokesman for Blaha, a Democrat, released the following statement to the Pioneer Press: “State Auditor Blaha was in a car accident earlier this evening. Auditor Blaha was traveling with Senator Melisa Franzen after a trip to Farmfest. We’ve spoken to Auditor Blaha and she’s currently being observed at a local hospital.”
Senate Minority Leader Susan Kent, DFL-Woodbury, released the following statement: “I spoke with Melisa tonight. I was reassured by the sound of her voice and grateful that it sounds like she’ll be o.k. I am holding both her and Julie in my prayers.”
Exact details about the extent of the women’s injuries were unavailable Wednesday night.
Numerous Minnesota politicians have been attending Farmfest this week in Redwood County in southwestern Minnesota. The annual event is politically important for officials to reach out to rural and agricultural voters and interests.
Franzen, who also has gone by Lopez Franzen, is serving her third term in the Senate. First elected in 2012, she’s an attorney and ranking minority member of the Senate’s commerce committee. Until recently, she served as one of three assistant minority leaders in the chamber’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor caucus.
Blaha is in the midst of a four-year term — her first in elected office of any kind — after winning a statewide race in 2018. In 2019, Blaha was awarded the blue ribbon at the Minnesota State Fair for her crop art honoring the engagement of Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan to former Minnesota Public Radio reporter Tom Weber.
Arguably the lowest-profile statewide elected office, the state auditor is charged with being a type of watchdog for local bodies of government, performing financial audits for an estimated $40 billion of spending.