Aug 30, 2022 - Politics

Trail Mix: Debates and taxes in the Minnesota governor's race

Illustration of trail mix with elephant and donkey pretzels
Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

'Tis the season to debate campaign trail debates.

What's happening: Minnesota Republican gubernatorial nominee Scott Jensen and the state GOP have spent recent weeks repeatedly dinging incumbent DFL Gov. Tim Walz for declining debates, including one proposed by MPR News at the Minnesota State Fair.

Why it matters: Debates give voters an opportunity to compare candidates' substance and style.

State of play: Walz and Jensen faced off in a fiery forum at Farmfest earlier this month.

  • But no other debates have been scheduled. By this point in 2018 campaign, Walz and GOP nominee Jeff Johnson had participated in four of six debates that year, as Fox9 notes.
  • In some past election years, the incumbent got ahead of the questions by announcing a schedule early. It's not clear why Walz didn't take that route.

Between the lines: Incumbents generally prefer fewer forums — they usually have to defend their record — while challengers want more air time in front of a broad audience.

The response: Walz says he will agree to additional debates on an undetermined date.

  • When asked by Axios last week why he passed on a (widely broadcast) debate at the State Fair, he said he wanted "to make sure we have the broadest audience to be able to do these."

What to watch: Jensen's team is pushing for debates with a live audience. It's to be seen whether Walz agrees.

No tax returns (yet) from Jensen and Birk

Speaking of candidates' calls for the rival side... Walz's request that Jensen and running mate Matt Birk join the DFL ticket in releasing their tax returns has gone unheeded.

Why it matters: While it's not required, releasing tax returns gives voters insight into how candidates make their money, how much taxes they pay and how much they donate to charity.

What they're saying: Birk dismissed the issue as a distraction at an event last week.

  • "Nobody has come up to me on the street and said, 'Hey, I'm really interested to see your tax return,'" he said, adding that he'd consider releasing information in response to specific requests.

Flashback: Walz and Johnson both released their returns in 2018, per The Star Tribune. Gubernatorial candidates also released returns in 2014 and 2010.

Have a question or story idea about Minnesota politics? Drop a line to Torey at [email protected].

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