Democratic Gov. Tim Walz and Republican challenger Scott Jensen scored easy victories in their primaries Tuesday, setting the stage for their fall showdown in Minnesota’s main race for governor.
Walz is seeking his second term under the same “One Minnesota” slogan he used four years ago, but in an increasingly polarized environment in which Jensen and the Republican Party seek to turn his handling of the pandemic against him. Both easily outperform little-known or perennial candidates to formalize a contest that has been going on for months.
In another top race, voters chose between two Republicans vying to take on Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison in a race that could spark views on public safety and abortion. Ellison easily beat perennial candidate Bill Dahn in the Democratic primary.
Republicans have spent months attacking Walz and Ellison for public safety after crime spiked in Minneapolis in 2020 and 2021, just like in other major US cities.
Republicans have blamed Walz for a slow mobilization of the National Guard that they say enabled the sometimes violent protests that followed the 2020 killing of George Floyd, including an arson attack that destroyed a police compound.
Walz has dismissed the “secondary assumptions” of his moves during the pandemic, which included closing schools, restaurants and businesses and restricting large gatherings during the worst periods, and responded to Jensen, a doctor and former state lawmaker who jumped into the fray. part fame. about his skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccine.
“You can have wishful thinking and you can expect to know that COVID wasn’t real and you can take ivermectin or whatever, but the facts aren’t there,” Walz told Jensen during their first debate just a week before the primary. .
Jensen has denied being against science, even as one of his vaccine-challenging videos on Facebook prompted a warning label from the company and a temporary ban on advertising on the site.
Jensen has also gone after Walz for rising inflation, dismissing record unemployment as a “false metric” compared to the higher costs faced by consumers.
Retired pastor George Brecheisen, 83, of the Minneapolis suburb of Shakopee, said “law and order” was the main reason he voted for Jensen and his running mate, former Vikings center Matt Birk. . He said it took too long for Walz to send in the National Guard to stop the rioting after Floyd’s killing.
“From what I’ve heard, they believe in Republican stuff about spending, about law and order, about how a state should be run in general,” Brecheisen said.
Democrat Barb Atkinson, 53, a part-time event planner for a radio station who lives in downtown Minneapolis, voted for Walz, praising his pandemic restrictions and saying they were based on science and advice she was receiving from medical professionals.
“He took it seriously. It wasn’t a joke. It wasn’t fake. We lost over a million people over this,” Atkinson said.
Walz is committed to protecting abortion rights in Minnesota, which became an island for legal abortion after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, allowing neighboring states’ bans on the procedure to go into effect. Jensen has downplayed the possibility of an immediate change on abortion if he is elected, but in July he softened his call to ban abortion to allow exceptions for rape and incest and to protect the physical or mental health of the mother.
In the Republican attorney general primary, business lawyer Jim Schultz won the party’s backing to take on Ellison. But Doug Wardlow, who narrowly lost to Ellison in 2018, was mounting a major challenge against the wishes of his own party, ruling out the “elites” at the top of the game. Both Schultz and Wardlow attacked Ellison for rising crime and his support for abortion rights.
Wardlow is general counsel for MyPillow and an ally of its founder, Mike Lindell, one of the main proponents of false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump.