A Minnesota Republican has not won a statewide race in more than a dozen years, so looking forward to a gubernatorial election 22 months from now doesn’t hurt.
Even deep blue Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Vermont have elected Republican governors more recently than the Land of 10,000 Lakes.
Minnesota GOP Chair Jennifer Carnahan has a four-year losing streak, which has led to calls for change. She was quite confident last November, forecasting assorted electoral victories, yet none occurred.
Joe Biden won Minnesota by nearly 200,000 more votes than Hillary Clinton in 2016. Tina Smith cruised to a U.S. Senate win over Jason Lewis.
But domineering decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic, last summer’s leadership debacle after George Floyd’s death, and kowtowing to teachers unions’ dereliction of duty the past 10 months have led to vulnerabilities for Gov. Tim Walz.
Several Republican politicians — who’ve criticized the governor’s policies — likely will test the waters soon.
MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell basically confirmed last week he is running for governor. The honorary chairman of President Donald Trump’s Minnesota campaign remains among the highest-profile figures still pursuing legal efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Lindell has continuously claimed Trump defeated Biden, and that the election was “stolen” by mass fraud.
“I think I would bring common sense and unity,” Lindell said. “It’s a business, where you run things like a business. I look at problems and solutions and what it’s going to manifest into.”
Minnesota DFL Chair Ken Martin believes Republicans are trying to divide the Twin Cities from Greater Minnesota.
“The Republican Party, both the party itself and also policymakers and key party leaders, have really embraced the idea of catering just to greater Minnesota,” he claimed.
A formidable contender could be U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber, who has won two consecutive races in a massive northern Minnesota district that Democrats held for decades.
Another possibility is Scott Jensen, the physician who recently retired from the state Senate, and earned national attention by questioning how coronavirus deaths were being tabulated. He’s also been a harsh critic of Walz’s edicts.
Other potential candidates include U.S. Rep. Tom Emmer; Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka; state Sen. Karin Housley; businessman and 2020 congressional candidate Kendall Qualls; former Minnesota Viking Matt Birk; and others.
“That’s the rumor of the day? Slow news day. I don’t know, maybe,” Birk said, when recently asked about a gubernatorial campaign by WCCO Radio. “I think right now what I’m doing is I’m at a point in my life where I want to try to do something to give back, to serve. I’m just trying to figure out what might be the best way to do that. What are my skills? What are my gifts? What do I feel called to do? We’ll figure it out. Whatever path I’m supposed to take, I think will become clear.”
The 44-year-old St. Paul native played a decade for the Vikings before winning a Super Bowl with the Baltimore Ravens. A Harvard University graduate, Birk is known for his charitable endeavors and conservative views, opposing same-sex marriage in 2012, and refusing to visit the White House when Barack Obama was in office due to the former president’s unrelenting support for Planned Parenthood.
A September Star Tribune poll found Walz at 57% approval, though that was down eight points from three months prior.
Likely the first test for Republican hopefuls will occur at the Minnesota State Fair this summer. A straw poll is also planned for December.