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Patrick Condon / Associated Press, Published January 15 2011

Minnesota: Walz, Ellison meet with their constituents

MINNEAPOLIS – Two Minnesota members of Congress stressed the importance of continued voter access to elected representatives as they held “Congress on Your Corner” events Friday in tribute to a wounded colleague.

Democratic U.S. Reps. Tim Walz and Keith Ellison hastily arranged their meetings in response to the shootings last Saturday of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others at an event in Tucson. Giffords remained in critical condition Friday but doctors were optimistic about her recovery.

“I never used the ‘Congress on Your Corner’ title before, but we’re very deliberately using it today because Gabby used it,” Ellison said a few hours before his event at Midtown Global Market in Minneapolis. “This is the very heart and soul of elected democracy – that you can come and talk to the people who’ve elected you to represent your interests in Washington.”

Ellison said he has never worried about his safety while holding public events with constituents, and still doesn’t. He said he hopes constituents continue to feel safe coming to such events.

Ellison said he has received anonymous threats over the years, but none that have caused him to actually fear for his safety.

Walz held a “Congress on Your Corner” at Mocol’s Super Market in Mankato earlier Friday. The Free Press of Mankato reported that dozens turned out to talk to Walz, some in response to the Tucson shootings but more who simply wanted to talk about issues from the war in Afghanistan to the health care overhaul.

“The public’s absolute unfettered access to stand in front of their congressman ... that has to continue on,” Walz told the newspaper, which reported there was no law enforcement presence at the event.

Walz, who represents southern Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District, and Ellison, who represents the Minneapolis-area 5th District, were both first elected in 2006, the same year Giffords was elected to Congress.