A Republican candidate for the Minnesota House said Monday that he is recovering after suffering a concussion from an attack at a restaurant in St. George Township a few days earlier.
Shane Mekeland is running for the House in District 15B, an open seat that includes parts of Benton and Sherburne County. He said that last Friday night, he was "blindsided" by an assailant as he spoke to patrons at a bar and restaurant he wouldn't identify.
Benton County Sheriff Troy Heck confirmed Monday that his office is investigating the alleged assault, which Mekeland reported took place between 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. on Friday. Heck said his office interviewed the suspect, whose identity is not being released because he has not been arrested or charged with a crime.
In an e-mail, Heck wrote that he expected the investigation to continue another seven to 10 days before referring to the Benton County Attorney's Office for review.
Mekeland went public with the incident on his campaign's Facebook page Sunday. In an interview Monday, he said he waited until Saturday to seek treatment and to call the Benton County Sheriff's Office after noticing some lingering side effects.
Mekeland described his assailant as a man who was a "much, much bigger person" who "did not seem dangerous" when he first approached to ask questions about Mekeland's campaign. Mekeland said the man gave no immediate indication of political leanings but that remarks the man made as he attacked Mekeland suggested a political motivation.
"It was a typical politically charged statement — not necessarily one way or the other, just a statement in general," said Mekeland, who declined to elaborate. "But it was in reference to politicians not caring about the middle class."
Mekeland said Monday that law enforcement told him the suspect admitted to attacking Mekeland unprovoked and said authorities were awaiting medical reports and surveillance footage.
Mekeland said he decided to go public about the attack to try to urge a return to "civil discourse."
"Stay calm, be civil, it's OK," Mekeland said Monday. "My parents were on the opposite side for their entire marriage and it was 53 years. I grew up in it; they never fought over it."
On his Facebook page, however, Mekeland pointed to "the media and the likes of Maxine Waters, Hillary, and Eric Holder" as Democrats being responsible for "driving this behavior."
"As far as resolve, this is exactly the type of thing that will push me, you and other like minded people to fight harder," he continued, in a reply on a comment thread attached to his post about the attack.
Mekeland is running against DFL candidate Karla Scapanski and independent Myron Wilson for the seat being vacated by Republican Jim Newberger, who is running for U.S. Senate against Sen. Amy Klobuchar.