Minnesota GOP seeks candidate who can topple Democrat Walz

May 11, 2022, 10:27 AM | Updated: 11:03 am

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Endorsing a candidate who can topple Democratic Gov. Tim Walz in one of the Midwest’s rare liberal-dominated states tops the agenda as Minnesota Republicans gather for their state convention Friday and Saturday.

They’ll choose from a field led by a physician skeptical of coronavirus vaccines and mandates, a former Senate majority leader, and a Black business executive trumpeting his outsider status. The 2,200 delegates are eager to reverse their party’s repeated defeats in elections statewide since 2006.

The outcome at the convention hall in Rochester will essentially settle the GOP field for the November general election, assuming there’s no deadlock. Minnesota Republicans traditionally abide by their party’s endorsements. And none of the Democratic candidates for statewide office faces a significant challenge from within their own party, which portends few fireworks for their own state convention one weekend later.

GOP delegates are expected to endorse in the governor’s race on Saturday, with a deadline to exit the venue by 6 p.m. Leaders plan to use an electronic voting system to speed the process, reducing the chance of a deadlock that could be caused by counting paper ballots.

Dr. Scott Jensen, a former state senator, got the earliest start in the GOP field. The folksy doctor has raised the most money and built a national following on social media as he leveraged his medical credentials to promote vaccine skepticism. He also opposed the mask mandates and school and business closures that Walz imposed to slow the spread of the coronavirus.

Jensen has also been stressing his uncompromising anti-abortion position in recent days, bolstered by his running mate, former Minnesota Viking and Baltimore Raven Matt Birk, a social conservative who refused to visit the White House after the Ravens’ 2013 Super Bowl victory because of President Barack Obama’s support for abortion rights. Jensen raised eyebrows recently when he suggested Democratic Secretary of State Steve Simon should go to jail for actions he legally took to make it easier to vote amid the pandemic.

Sen. Paul Gazelka was the state’s highest ranking elected Republican before he stepped down as Senate majority leader to run for governor. His main theme has been law and order in the wake of the sometimes violent unrest and spike in crime following the police killing of George Floyd in 2020. He’s been endorsed by the state’s biggest law enforcement association and has highlighted the close ties he enjoyed with President Donald Trump.

But Kendall Qualls has been coming on strong. Qualls, who is Black, has underlined his rise from poverty to success. He challenged incumbent Democratic U.S. Rep. Dean Phillips in 2020, losing by 11 points but impressing Republicans in the process. He raised nearly $468,000 in the first three months of the year, the highest first-quarter take for any candidate, and has won some recent straw polls. Like Jensen, he also has a football connection. His campaign co-chair is former NBC sideline reporter Michele Tafoya.

Also seeking the party’s gubernatorial nomination are former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, dermatologist Neil Shah and Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy.

The main business for Friday is endorsing candidates for the three other statewide offices on the November ballot: attorney general, secretary of state and state auditor. The endorsement to take on Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison has drawn the most attention. It’s an office Republicans haven’t won since 1968.

Former legislator Doug Wardlow is making his second run for the job after losing to Ellison by less than 4 percentage points in 2018. He’s general counsel at MyPillow and has the backing of its CEO, Mike Lindell, who perpetuates the baseless claim that Trump won the 2020 election.

Former Washington County judge, former Hennepin County commissioner and former legislator Tad Jude has the most political experience in the race. He points to his 10 general election victories as evidence of his electability, as well as his anti-abortion record from seven terms in the House and Senate. He has picked up a string of endorsements from current legislators in recent weeks.

Also hoping to take on Ellison are business attorney Jim Schultz, who has police association backing; former legislator Dennis Smith, who has the most money in the bank; and Second Amendment attorney Lynne Torgerson.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


(Facebook Photo/City of San Luis, Arizona)...
Associated Press

San Luis authorities receive complaints about 911 calls going across border

Authorities in San Luis say they are receiving more complaints about 911 calls mistakenly going across the border.
6 days ago
(Pexels Photo)...
Associated Press

Daylight saving time begins in most of US this weekend

No time change is observed in Hawaii, most of Arizona, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Marianas.
14 days ago
Mexican army soldiers prepare a search mission for four U.S. citizens kidnapped by gunmen in Matamo...
Associated Press

How the 4 abducted Americans in Mexico were located

The anonymous tip that led Mexican authorities to a remote shack where four abducted Americans were held described armed men and blindfolds.
14 days ago
Tom Brundy points to a newly built irrigation canal on one of the fields at his farm Tuesday, Feb. ...
Associated Press

Southwest farmers reluctant to idle farmland to save water

There is a growing sense that fallowing will have to be part of the solution to the increasingly desperate drought in the West.
21 days ago
A young bison calf stands in a pond with its herd at Bull Hollow, Okla., on Sept. 27, 2022. The cal...
Associated Press

US aims to restore bison herds to Native American lands after near extinction

U.S. officials will work to restore more large bison herds to Native American lands under a Friday order from Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
21 days ago
Children play in a dried riverbed in Flassans-sur-Issole, southern France, Wednesday, March 1, 2023...
Associated Press

Italy, France confront 2nd year of western Europe drought

ROME (AP) — Bracing for Italy’s second consecutive year of drought for the first time in decades, Premier Giorgia Meloni huddled with ministers Wednesday to start mapping out an action plan Wednesday, joining France and other nations in western Europe grappling with scant winter rain and snow. Meloni and her ministers decided to appoint an […]
23 days ago

Sponsored Articles

(Photo: OCD & Anxiety Treatment Center)...

Here’s what you need to know about OCD and where to find help

It's fair to say that most people know what obsessive-compulsive spectrum disorders generally are, but there's a lot more information than meets the eye about a mental health diagnosis that affects about one in every 100 adults in the United States.
(Photo by Michael Matthey/picture alliance via Getty Images)...
Cox Communications

Valley Boys & Girls Club uses esports to help kids make healthy choices

KTAR’s Community Spotlight focuses on the Boys & Girls Club of the Valley and the work to incorporate esports into children's lives.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Company looking for oldest air conditioner and wants to reward homeowner with new one

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.
Minnesota GOP seeks candidate who can topple Democrat Walz