Michelle Benson

Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, announced a gubernatorial run Wednesday, Sept. 1, in Blaine. Photo by Emilee Wentland

State Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, announced a gubernatorial bid Wednesday, Sept. 1, at Master Machine in Blaine.

Benson is currently serving her fourth term as senator for District 31, which covers northern Anoka County, southern Isanti County and a small portion of Sherburne County. Benson, the first woman to formally enter the 2022 race, joins other Republicans seeking to replace DFL Gov. Tim Walz, including former Sen. Scott Jensen, dermatologist Neil Shah, businessman Mike Marti and Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy. Walz has not formally announced a 2022 reelection bid.

Benson said Minnesotans are less hopeful than they were four years ago.

“I’ve seen enough,” Benson said. “I want to bring our shared values back to the forefront. I want us to work together.”

Benson believes the state faces many challenges. She pointed to some leftists who are in favor of defunding the police while crime rates are high. She mentioned that many school districts held classes online throughout the pandemic, which she blamed for poor test scores.

“Yes, this will be hard work,” Benson said. “Together, we can make Minnesota safer, better, stronger. A brighter future for Minnesota starts right now.”

Rep. Jim Nash, R-Waconia, introduced Benson at the rally. He said Walz doesn’t listen to the needs of Minnesota residents.

“I am ready for change,” Nash said. “And I think you’re ready for change. As we talk, as legislators, to people from around the state, they’ve said, ‘Please give us some hope, we need something different.’ ... I will tell you that today is a brand new day for Minnesota.”

Benson said she doesn’t see the path to the governorship as a simple one.

“I’ve never taken the easy path,” Benson said. “So whatever work needs to be done, whatever money needs to be raised, whatever coffee shops need to be visited, that’s what I’m going to do.”

As someone with “deep roots” in Greater Minnesota, Benson said she aims to fight for residents all over the state — not just in the populous metro area.

“We’ve been there enough to know that [rural Minnesota residents] felt very differently than the metro about some of the actions the governor took,” Benson said. “I think listening to people wherever they live, reaching out to people who don’t feel heard is going to unify us.”

Emilee Wentland is a reporter with ABC Newspapers.

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