Aug 4, 2022 - Politics

Walz and Jensen trade barbs during fiery governor's forum

Incumbent DFL Gov. Tim Walz and presumptive GOP nominee Scott Jensen speak at a debate
Incumbent DFL Gov. Tim Walz (left) and presumptive GOP nominee Scott Jensen (right) clashed at the Farmfest debate. Photo: Torey Van Oot/Axios.

Minnesota DFL Gov. Tim Walz and presumptive GOP nominee Scott Jensen clashed in a fiery first forum Wednesday at the Farmfest farm show in Morgan.

Why it matters: The debate in front of an overflow crowd in Redwood County provided a preview of the posturing and messaging wars to come.

What we heard: Full-throated attacks and often diametrically opposed views on the state's past and future.

  • While issues facing the agriculture industry and rural communities were the focus of many questions, COVID, the economy and the government's role in everything from car sales to schools emerged as hot topics.

The arguments, in brief: Jensen, a physician and former state senator, repeatedly attacked Walz's "one-size-fits-all" pandemic shutdown orders and slammed his support for clean car standards mandating more availability of electric and hybrid vehicles.

  • Walz, meanwhile, blasted Jensen for spreading "misinformation" on COVID and argued that second-guessing his decisions from the outside is easier than making the tough calls to lead the state through a time of crisis.

What we didn't hear (much of): Two of the hottest issues of the midterms. Abortion wasn't mentioned and public safety talk was minimal until the closing statements.

How it played in the barn: Jensen came out swinging, as the challenger often does, putting Walz on defense in front of a packed pavilion that appeared at times more friendly to the GOP candidate.

  • But a visibly fired-up Walz also got in some applause-generating zingers as he defended his record and pointed to the state's relatively low COVID death toll and high vaccination rates.

State of play: Republicans haven't won a statewide office since 2006, but polling and national political headwinds are pointing to a potentially competitive race.

What's next: Tuesday's primary will seal both candidates' spots on the November ballot.

  • The question of how many more debates they'll do appeared to remain up for debate.
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