Aug 21, 2023 - Politics

Here's who's not running for U.S. Senate in Minnesota next year

Illustration of the GOP logo with animated typing ellipses, as if the elephant is thinking.

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

Minnesota Republicans trying to recruit a candidate to run against Democratic U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar in 2024 have gotten used to hearing "no."

Why it matters: Even if they face long odds themselves of winning, a strong GOP candidate at the top of the statewide ticket can help drive turnout down-ballot, boosting Republicans' chances of flipping the state House.

Between the lines: Republican strategists privately argue that a strong enough Senate nominee could use the bid to build a reputation for a future run in 2026 when all four state constitutional offices are on the ballot.

Yes, but: Klobuchar won her last two re-election campaigns by more than 20 percentage points. A landslide loss like that in a presidential election year could turn off future donors.

What we're hearing: Axios asked more than half a dozen Republicans about their plans. None said they are seriously considering a Klobuchar challenge.

  • 2022 gubernatorial nominee Sen. Scott Jensen has signaled openness to another statewide bid in 2026, but he said he has no plans to run next year.
  • Jim Schultz, the 2022 nominee for attorney general, said he's "focused like a laser beam" on his new business group. "My wife would kill me if I was even entertaining the possibility of running [for anything] in 2024."
  • Ryan Wilson, who narrowly lost the auditor's race last year, is also a no. An adviser said he's spending time with his family.
  • Former U.S. Rep. Erik Paulsen's inclusion in a recent political poll raised eyebrows. But a former adviser said the suburban Republican has "zero plans" to run for anything right now.
  • Kendall Qualls, another former GOP gubernatorial and congressional candidate, also has "no intention of running."
  • Former Senate Majority Leader and gubernatorial hopeful Paul Gazelka hasn't made any decisions about his future in politics, but said, "I have to say, I'm enjoying life up north."
  • Former Sen. Michelle Benson, another 2022 gubernatorial candidate, acknowledged she's been asked. She hasn't made a "hell no kind of decision," but said it's "not something that I'm leaning towards."
  • Freshman state Rep. Walter Hudson, seen by some as a potential future statewide contender, told Axios he is "not considering a statewide run at this time or in the foreseeable future."

Of note: Michele Tafoya, the former NFL broadcaster who chaired Qualls' gubernatorial campaign, declined to comment via email.

What we're watching: Republican Party chair David Hann told us in July that he was hopeful a candidate would announce by the State Fair, which starts Aug. 24.

  • That timeline is expected to shift, but conversations with potential candidates continue.

The bottom line: Campaigning is an expensive and all-consuming endeavor. Signing up to be a potential sacrificial lamb is a tough sell.

Editor's note: This story has been corrected to show that Ryan Wilson's adviser told Axios that Wilson isn't running. It has also been updated with a statement from Hudson about the fact that he's not considering running for U.S. Senate.


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