Walz, Jensen win primaries to host Minnesota gubernatorial race

MINNEAPOLIS — Democratic Gov. Tim Walz and Republican challenger Scott Jensen scored easy victories in their primaries on Tuesday, paving the way for their fall game in Minnesota’s showpiece 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 where Jensen and the GOP seek to turn his handling of the pandemic against him. The two men easily overcome unknown or perennial candidates to formalize a race already started for months.

In another high-profile race, voters were choosing between two Republicans vying to face Democratic Attorney General Keith Ellison in a race that could lead to opinions 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, as in other major cities across the United States. While homicides are down in Minneapolis so far this year, assaults and burglaries are on the rise.

Republicans have blamed Walz for a slow National Guard mobilization they say enabled the sometimes violent protests that followed the 2020 killing of George Floyd, including an arson attack that destroyed a police station.

Walz rejected the “questioning” of his decisions during the pandemic, which included closing schools, restaurants and businesses and restricting large gatherings during the worst times, and hit back at Jensen, a doctor and former state legislator who rose to prominence in part on his skepticism of the COVID-19 vaccine.

“You can have wishful thinking and you can hope that you know COVID wasn’t real and you can take ivermectin or whatever, but that’s not where the facts are,” Walz told Jensen in their first debate just a week before the primary. .

Jensen has denied being anti-science, even though one of his Facebook vaccine quiz videos drew a warning label from the company and a temporary advertising ban on the site.

Jensen also sued Walz on rising inflation, dismissing the record unemployment rate as a “false measure” in relation to the higher costs consumers face.

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, the former center of the VikingsMatt Birk. He said Walz was too slow to send in the National Guard to stop the unrest after Floyd’s killing.

“From what I’ve heard, they believe in Republican things about spending, about law and order, generally about how a state should be run,” Brecheisen said.

Democrat Barb Atkinson, 53, a part-time event organizer for a radio station who lives in downtown Minneapolis, voted for Walz, praising his pandemic restrictions, saying they were based on science and the advice he received from health professionals.

“He took it seriously. It wasn’t a joke. It wasn’t fake. We lost over a million people because of it,” Atkinson said.

Walz has pledged to protect abortion rights in Minnesota, which became a legal abortion island after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, allowing surrounding state bans on the proceedings to take effect. Jensen played down the prospect of immediate change on abortion if elected, but in July softened his call for an abortion ban to allow exceptions for rape and incest and to protect the physical or mental health of the mother.

In the Republican Attorney General’s primary, business attorney Jim Schultz won party approval to take on Ellison. But Doug Wardlow, who narrowly lost to Ellison in 2018, was staging a main challenge against his own party’s wishes, sending the “elites” back to the top of the party. Schultz and Wardlow both attacked Ellison for the increase in crime and for his support for abortion rights.

Wardlow is general counsel at MyPillow and an ally of its founder, Mike Lindell, a leading proponent of false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump.

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Associated Press writer Doug Glass contributed. Ahmed is a member of the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to report on underreported issues.

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