Walz, Jensen mobilize voters in final campaign sprint before Tuesday election

By: - November 5, 2022 6:00 am

Gov. Tim Walz poses for a selfie with a University of Minnesota Duluth student on Wednesday, Nov. 2. Photo by Michelle Griffith/Minnesota Reformer.

At the University of Minnesota Duluth’s student center on Wednesday, students encircled Gov. Tim Walz while others lined up to join the scrum. They asked the first-term DFL governor for one more selfie before his staff whisked him away to another campaign stop just days before Minnesotans decide whether to give Walz another term. 

A few days previously, at the Golden Valley American Legion club, Republican nominee for governor Scott Jensen said his campaign also has strong support from young Minnesotans.

“We’ve got the energy of Gen Zs and millennials stepping up and they’re saying, ‘We’re coming along side you. The cavalry’s arriving,’” Jensen said to the room full of nodding retirees.

Even if Jensen’s claim of youth support wasn’t immediately obvious at the American Legion Hall, he can take comfort knowing that older Americans — unlike their younger progeny — are far more likely to vote in a midterm election. 

Jensen and Walz for months have attacked each other and presented their plans for Minnesota’s future. Now, the two campaigns are sprinting toward Election Day, firing up their bases and trying to persuade the few remaining undecided swing voters to join them. 

Jensen is promising a restoration of Minnesota bygones, harping on what’s gone wrong in Minnesota and how to fix it. 

Walz, forced to govern from one crisis to another during his first term, is hoping he can draw on a deep well of trust with many Minnesotans and win a chance to implement his agenda of education funding, a solid economy and clean energy initiative and the jobs they would create. 

Jensen wants to make Minnesota more like Iowa

As with any challenger, Jensen must point out where things have gone wrong without seeming too negative about a place middle class Minnesotans love, namely Minnesota. He told the Golden Valley crowd of about 150 people that Minnesota is in worse shape than other states. The Chaska family physician’s prescription for the state is to look to its southern neighbor, Iowa, for inspiration. He let lowa’s governor do most of the talking during that rally.

Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds said Jensen’s vision for Minnesota is parallel to her goals for Iowa.

Since she assumed office in 2017, Reynolds has appointed four out of seven justices to the Iowa Supreme Court. Earlier this year, the state Supreme Court overturned a previous case that said residents have a right to abortion access under the state’s constitution.

Jensen says he is not looking to limit abortion rights in Minnesota — granted through the Minnesota Supreme Court precedent Doe v. Gomez. As Democrats pointed out during the Reynolds event, however, Jensen could appoint anti-abortion judges like Reynolds has, after which a GOP-controlled Legislature could begin to restrict the procedure in Minnesota with the blessing of a friendly court.

Reynolds also implemented a flat income tax rate, which overwhelmingly benefited rich Iowans. She has advocated for school vouchers. Similarly, Jensen wants to eliminate the state’s individual income tax, though he has provided few specifics. After proposing to increase the sales tax and start taxing food and clothing to fill the $15 billion annual hole from eliminating the income tax, Jensen backtracked. 

Republican nominee for governor Scott Jensen smiles at children attending his rally at the Capitol on Friday, Nov. 4. Photo by Michelle Griffith/Minnesota Reformer.

Jensen has also bemoaned Minnesota’s public school system and incorporated school vouchers into his own education plan. As with taxes, however, Jensen again sought to distance himself from his own comments on education. “We do not have a formal education plan put together right now,” Jensen said this week.  

Reynolds said Minnesota can be like Iowa. “If we show up with … the momentum and enthusiasm that I see as I travel Iowa and that I see here tonight, we are gonna flip Minnesota.” 

The rally closed with the attendees chanting, ”U.S.A.!”

On Friday, Jensen held a rally at the Capitol with veterans. About 80 attendees, some wearing Jensen/Birk football jerseys or “Let’s Go Brandon” shirts, huddled around him.

Jensen again relinquished the podium to let others speak on his behalf. 

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel encouraged Minnesotans to vote Walz out of office. She said Minnesota parents “need to have a voice” in their child’s education and raised a favorite issue of Republicans this year: Crime.

McDaniel said Walz, who spent two decades in the classroom and on football playing fields as an assistant coach, is more concerned for the interests of unions than students. To heal Minnesota, she said, Jensen would bring everyone together — including the Democrats she just torched.

Walz’s day in Duluth

Walz greeted Duluth firefighters on Wednesday morning wearing his lucky buffalo plaid shirt, a visual nod to the late Gov. Wendell Anderson, who graced the cover of Time magazine in a plaid shirt holding a walleye. His running mate, Lt. Gov. Peggy Flannagan, and Sen. Amy Klobuchar also wore buffalo plaids — although briefly — while campaigning across Duluth for the governor.

He touted the support of the firefighters union and said that he will continue advocating for them with another four years as governor. Walz later went up on one of the fire truck’s aerial ladders, which granted him views of Duluth’s Lift Bridge and the iron ore ship on the lake’s coast from 100 feet in the air.

Gov. Tim Walz points to the Duluth Lift Bridge while on a fire truck aerial ladder at a local fire station on Wednesday. Nov. 2. Photo by Michelle Griffith/Minnesota reformer.

At UMD, Walz said he’d protect abortion access, allocate more funding for education and advocate for more initiatives to battle climate change.

The former Mankato high school teacher is trying to buck the midterm doldrums for the party that controls the White House. Walz is consistently polling ahead of Jensen, but with a harsh political environment, the governor knows the race is tight. 

He told his supporters so during a get-out-the vote event with union members at Duluth’s Labor Temple.

“These races are going to be closer than they should be, and it’s damn embarrassing to me that they are,” Walz said on Wednesday. “But that’s where America is at right now.”

At the conclusion of his speech, the crowd chanted, “Walz!”

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Michelle Griffith
Michelle Griffith

Michelle Griffith covers Minnesota politics and policy for the Reformer, with a focus on marginalized communities. Most recently she was a reporter with The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead in North Dakota where she covered state and local government and Indigenous issues. For two years she was also a corps member with Report for America, a national nonprofit that places journalists in local newsrooms and news deserts. She lives in St. Paul and likes to knit and watch documentaries in her free time.