The governor’s race is pivotal to our state’s future path. We find ourselves with a very low unemployment rate and a large state budget surplus. But nothing is simple in today’s political climate. The two men vying to be the next governor exemplify the many divisions we face, as well as offer insights into opportunities ahead.
Gov. Tim Walz, DFL, is in a tight race against Scott Jensen, a medical doctor and former Republican State Senator.
Our Adams Publishing-ECM Editorial Board met with both candidates, asking key questions based on the four topics we have defined as most important to voters: Crime/public safety, election integrity, abortion and the economy.
We feel gun violence is a serious problem in our country. Legislation passed earlier this year by Congress is a solid first step toward reasonable gun regulations. We think all current laws should be enforced and clamping down on ghost weapons and passage of safe harbor laws is another. We believe in fully staffing local police departments, many of which have struggled to recruit and retain officers.
Those who choose to pursue violent crimes, such as carjacking, need to be kept off the streets and properly processed by the judicial system. However, we also encourage holistic responses to crime, such as community-based prevention and intervention programs, especially involving juvenile offenders and those suffering mental illness.
While Walz was widely criticized for waiting three days before calling out the National Guard to quell riots after George Floyd died in police custody, Walz sees crime as a huge concern. “We need to be getting the people who are perpetrating these crimes off the streets as quickly as possible. We also need to make sure that we’re cutting off that pipeline of guns. But I think we also must look holistically, how are we ending up with 15-year-olds with firearms in their hands, automatic firearms, in crowded situations?”
Walz proposed a half billion dollars for local entities to hire the police, investigators or social workers, or buy the equipment they needed. These communities are hard pressed on resources, and the police officers need to be given the tools necessary to do their job, he said.
Jensen said, “We need more cops on the street corners in Minneapolis and St. Paul. And I think we need to have incarceration used as a tool to deter repeat violent felons. I think that we absolutely need to have mandated minimum sentences reflect actual mandated minimum sentences.” He also said it was vital to enforce the law fairly, and to offer rehabilitation options for those incarcerated. Jensen would also preserve qualified immunity from prosecution for police.
“I would try to tighten up the laws in regards to making certain that prohibited people aren’t able to get their hands on guns. I think that the straw man purchase legislation should be tougher,” he said.
Walz said he supports legalizing marijuana and believes the state is prepared to manage it. Jensen said he does not support legalizing recreational marijuana at this time.
Election integrity continues to be an important issue in the 2022 election. Minnesotans should be proud they have led the nation in voter turnout in the past three elections. At the same time, concerns over the fairness of our elections need to be addressed so that everyone is confident every vote is legitimate. We strongly believe any reform of election laws should have bipartisan support.
Walz said he believes Joe Biden was legitimately elected president. “Our verification systems are solid. This was the most secure election that America has ever had.” He said voting day should include a Saturday or a day off work. “Waiting in line for eight hours is simply undermining the process. I believe that we should have automatic voter registration when an individual turns 18. We make it as easy as we possibly can. We continue to keep the safeguards in place.”
Jensen said the state needs Photo ID requirements for voting. He would want a free option for a state ID for those without drivers’ licenses. “Do I think the trust and confidence that we have in our elections overall, is the same as it was 25 years ago? No, I don’t. But Joe Biden is president, there’s no question the Electoral College put him in office.”
Soaring food prices, worker shortages and supply chain issues affect everyone. Inflation is a national and global phenomenon. Minnesota’s leaders cannot control oil prices or computer chip shortages, but they can control spending and target programs to help those hit the hardest. With our state blessed with a very large budget surplus, we should find middle ground, balancing essential spending with permanent income tax cuts.
“I don’t believe it’s about big versus small government. It’s about how effective is the government you’re looking for. We have a responsibility to be as prudent as possible, but to get results,” Walz said.
He continued to urge the legislature to offer rebate checks to Minnesotans. “We have the money. We’re not going to impact inflation, it’s a global phenomenon.” Walz said we can control our diversified economy, making sure our food sources and production are close to home. Walz said he would support legislation reducing state income taxes by adjusting the tax brackets and eliminating the tax on Social Security benefits.
Jensen said we need less government spending. “I think we must tighten our belts, redeploy our dollars in education, we need to put the dollars into the classroom. Spending on teachers has been relatively flat - administrative costs have been incredible,” he said.
Jensen said he welcomed a comprehensive conversation on state taxes. “Can we look at our personal income tax system and say, is there a way that we can get rid of it?” And if further study showed that would not work, he suggested the income tax brackets could be simplified and reduced to possibly 2% and 4%. He also opposes taxing Social Security. Sales tax changes could be considered, but with income-based exemptions for items like food and clothing.
Abortion in Minnesota currently remains a legal choice for all women even as the U.S. Supreme Court has stricken the medical procedure as a federally protected right. As the fiery debate about Minnesota’s status as a right-to-abortion state rages, the proper path forward is to seek a vote of the people through a constitutional amendment.
In March 2022 Jensen said he would support an outright ban on abortions, but this past summer changed that stance to say he would support abortions if the mother’s mental or physical health were in danger or jeopardized, saying now that he didn’t think it was necessary to identify those exceptions when he was asked about his abortion stance in March.
In August, he told the Editorial Board his earlier statements were clumsy. “I can be pro-life and still understand that I don’t want to ban all abortions. And I think that rape and incest certainly are exceptions to any prohibition of abortion. I’ve always thought that the priority is the pregnant woman. And if the pregnant woman’s health is being jeopardized, either mentally or physically, it’s no longer a matter for the legal system. This is a private decision on the part of the patient and her physician.” He said he would welcome a constitutional amendment in Minnesota.
Walz did not waver from his previous position. “Minnesota needs to take measures to continue to make sure we keep access safe and affordable. We want to help people be as informed as possible to make their choices. But once decisions need to be made, those individuals need to have access to those services. I am committed to making sure we’re strengthening through legislation and we’re able to protect both those seeking services and the providers,” he said.
We feel it is important to note both Walz and Jensen have revised their messages to voters. Walz supports fully funding police departments, distancing himself from the “defund the police” movement and emphasizing being tough on criminals. Jensen has amended his anti-abortion stance to allow some exceptions to protect the pregnant woman. We note Republican leaders have urged their candidates to state that abortion is constitutionally protected in Minnesota, and to focus on crime and economic issues.
Position changes are not inherently bad but can be suspect that the candidate is merely swaying with the current political wind. However, thoughtful change can move policy leaders toward common ground and compromise.
As you make your choice in this key race, judge your candidate not only on where he has been but where he will lead Minnesota in the coming years.