Minnesota candidate for governor Scott Jensen wins GOP endorsement
Minnesota Republicans endorsed Scott Jensen as their candidate to take on DFL Gov. Tim Walz after a long and contentious debate on Saturday.
Why it matters: The endorsement unlocks support from the state party and has historically carried significant sway with GOP primary voters.
- The GOP-endorsed gubernatorial candidate has gone on to be the party's general election nominee for nearly three decades.
What he's saying: "Matt Birk and I have a team, we have a movement, you have fueled much of it," he told delegates of his ticket with the former Viking. "Together, we can absolutely bring that message to Tim Walz: Game over. You're done."
How it happened: The physician and former state senator, who entered the GOP convention as a frontrunner in a crowded field, crossed the 60% threshold needed to secure the endorsement after nine rounds of balloting.
- The process, which included fiery speeches and new alliances as the other four candidates dropped, took more than five hours and came down to a two-way battle between Jensen and former congressional candidate Kendall Qualls.
Bio, in brief: Jensen, a vocal critic of Walz's pandemic response and vaccine mandates, has garnered national attention — and backlash — for his comments questioning COVID-19 death tolls.
- During his one term in the Legislature, he had a reputation as a political wild card willing to buck his party leadership on issues such as gun control and conversion therapy.
- He's tacked right as a candidate, saying he will seek to ban abortion with no exceptions for rape or incest and suggesting DFL Secretary of State Steve Simon should be jailed for his handling of the 2020 election. On Saturday, he apologized to delegates for his past stance on gun control.
Behind the win: Jensen, who significantly out-raised his GOP rivals, revived some of his most conservative and controversial claims as he made the case to Republican delegates that he and Birk were best positioned to excite voters and defeat Walz.
- Following the vote, he told reporters that he now plans to broaden his platform to have "new issues brought in the mix," including consumer protection, corporate responsibility and water conservation.
The other side: DFL Party chair Ken Martin blasted Jensen in a statement, saying Republicans selected "the most extreme and dangerous candidate to lead their party in the fall."
What to watch: The filing period for the August primary, which opens this week, will show whether other Republicans follow through on their promises to abide by the endorsement and drop their campaigns, which would allow Jensen to turn his focus to November.
- Qualls said in a statement Saturday that he plans "to transition back to private life."
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