Updated Sep 8, 2021 - Politics
Former Minnesota Senate leader launches run for governor
gazelka
State Sen. Paul Gazelka. Photo courtesy of Minnesota Legislature

Former Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka is running for governor.

  • The East Gull Lake Republican, who stepped down from his leadership post last month in anticipation of the campaign, formally announced his bid Wednesday at a 9am news conference at the State Capitol.

State of play: Gazelka joins a growing GOP field that includes state Sen. Michelle Benson, Scott Jensen, a former state senator and physician, and Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy.

  • They're competing to take on DFL Gov. Tim Walz in the November 2022 midterm election.

Bio, in brief: Gazelka, an insurance salesman from the Brainerd area, has served in the state Legislature since 2011. He successfully defended the GOP's narrow Senate majority in 2020, even as President Joe Biden carried the state.

What to watch: Gazelka has been a vocal critic of Walz's use of emergency powers during the pandemic. But his own comments and handling of COVID-19 have also come under scrutiny.

  • Gazelka was among several members of his caucus to fall ill with the virus after an in-person election victory party in November. One senator died.

Yes, but: Gazelka has said recently that he thinks crime, not COVID-19, will be a top issue for voters next year.

Of note: Walz still hasn't announced his reelection run, but he's widely expected to seek another term.

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