Updated Sep 1, 2021 - News
Michelle Benson announces run for Minnesota governor
Michelle Benson speaks at a podium alongside her husband and two children.
Photo: Torey Van Oot/Axios

Republican Michelle Benson is joining the race for Minnesota governor.

Driving the news: Benson, a state senator from Ham Lake, announced her campaign for the GOP nomination to challenge DFL Gov. Tim Walz in a video posted online ahead of a Wednesday morning news conference.

  • "Minnesota should be a place where dreams can grow, where families succeed. It will be hard work, but working together we can make Minnesota safer, better and stronger," Benson says in the video.

State of play: Expect a competitive GOP primary. Scott Jensen, a former state senator and doctor, has a monthslong head start. He's already raised large amounts of campaign cash.

  • Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka (R-East Gull Lake) is expected to announce his bid soon. He told the caucus Wednesday he's stepping down from his leadership post, saying he plans to pursue his "next chapter" in politics.
  • At least three other candidates — Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy, business owner Mike Marti, and physician Neil Shah — have filed paperwork to raise money for a run.

Between the lines: In her campaign video, Benson, who chairs an influential Senate health committee, knocked COVID-19 school closures and the "defund the police" movement.

  • Both issues are expected to be central themes of the GOP case against Walz, who has not formally announced but is expected to run for re-election.

Of note: Minnesota has never elected a female governor. If successful, Benson would also be the first woman to secure the GOP's endorsement for Minnesota's top statewide elected post.

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