While on his way to St. Paul for a meeting with the governor last January, House Speaker Kurt Daudt rear-ended a van on a rural highway in Isanti County, sending the other driver to the hospital.
Beau Hullermann, whom Daudt struck from behind as Hullermann slowed to make a left turn, said he was briefly knocked unconscious in the 8:10 a.m. crash. The air bags deployed in Daudt's Lexus sedan and his car had to be towed as he found another way to St. Paul.
Hullermann said the wreck caused him to miss a month of work, money that he is trying to recoup from his insurance company. He said he now suffers from a slipped disk and often uses prescription opiates to help him sleep. The collision totaled his work van, causing more than $9,000 in damages.
The crash marked the latest in a long line of driving-related maladies for Daudt, the highest-ranking Republican in the state. In recent years, Daudt has been cited with four moving violations and two license suspensions for failure to pay fines in Minnesota.
Daudt has received two tickets driving at least 15 miles per hour over the limit, a third for speeding and a fourth for texting while driving, all since joining the Legislature in 2010.
The speaker declined to comment on the story, but sent a statement through his spokeswoman. House GOP spokeswoman Susan Closmore said the crash was unremarkable, but that political rivals are using the incident to try to damage Daudt politically.
"Seven months ago on a bad-weather day, Speaker Daudt's car hit a patch of glare ice and collided with another vehicle," Closmore said. "He stayed on the scene of the accident, was told by a first responder on the scene that the other driver was all right, and has not been charged with any driving violation."
The statement does not address Daudt's previous driving offenses.
The crash report cites "following too closely" as a "contributing factor," but Daudt was never issued a traffic citation. The roads were icy at the time, according to news reports from the day of the crash. An ambulance transported Hullermann to Cambridge Medical Center.
Department of Public Public Safety spokesman Bruce Gordon said the collision was a routine crash and that "both parties were treated appropriately and in keeping with State Patrol policies and values."
Gordon said it is not unusual that authorities opted not to cite Daudt for a moving violation. Weather can also play a factor in whether an officer issues a citation after a crash, he said.
Daudt is often talked about as a leading GOP contender for governor. He became speaker following the 2014 election that gave Republicans the majority and has had a clean driving record since then.
Closmore said they mentioned the crash at a news conference after the meeting with the governor in January and that "it was only raised recently by a political opponent on the eve of Speaker Daudt's primary election."
Daudt faced GOP challenger Alan Duff in the Aug. 9 primary, with Duff framing himself as the more conservative candidate. The race began drawing wider attention as some notable GOP contributors outside the district were directing money to Duff's campaign.
Daudt easily won the primary, but Duff's advocates were antagonizing the speaker about the car wreck on social media the day before the primary.
Hullermann's Facebook page indicates he is a vocal and passionate Republican who supported Daudt's opponent in the primary.
Hullermann, who is a heating and air conditioning contractor, said he did not know who Daudt was until after the collision. He said he then began researching Daudt and concluded the speaker did not fit his brand of conservatism. He then approached Duff about the car wreck to see if it would help his candidacy, but said Duff turned down his offer of help.
Hullermann has hired an attorney and is considering legal action against his insurance company.
Because Minnesota is a no-fault insurance state, a driver's own insurance company pays the first part of medical bills and lost wages. Hullermann plans on filing a claim against Daudt's insurance company for the damages not covered, including pain and suffering. If Daudt did not have enough coverage for the remaining damages, Hullermann said he would sue Daudt.