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Republican candidates shift focus to challenging DFL candidates in November

The GOP candidates addressed hundreds gathered Monday on the Capitol steps after Scott Jensen and several others officially registered with the scretary of state to run in 2022. Jensen, a former state senator and Chaska family-practice physician skeptical of COVID-19 vaccines and restrictions, started campaigning for governor in 2021.

GOP MN 5-23
Republican candidates for Minnesota office pose for a photo on the steps of the state capitol Monday, May 23. From left: Auditor candidate Ryan Wilson, GOP-endorsed candidate for governor Scott Jensen, ex-gubernatorial candidate Kendall Qualls, 4th District candidate May Lor Xiong, attorney general candidate Jim Schultz, 2nd District candidate Tyler Kistner (with child), 5th District candidate Cicely Davis, Jensen running mate Matt Birk, secretary of state candidate Kim Crockett and state House candidate Trace Johnson.
Alex Derosier / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — Minnesota Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen and other GOP candidates for statewide office and Congress held a rally at the Minnesota Capitol Monday, May 23, as they shifted their focus from seeking party backing to challenging Democrats in the November election.

The candidates addressed hundreds gathered on the Capitol steps after Jensen and others officially registered with the Secretary of State's Office to run in 2022. Jensen, a former state senator and Chaska family-practice physician skeptical of COVID-19 vaccines and restrictions, started campaigning for governor in 2021. He’s been a strong critic of Democratic-Farmer-Labor Gov. Tim Walz's decision to shut down businesses in 2020 as the pandemic took hold in Minnesota as a precaution against the virus.

“We’ve got someone who thinks he’s a king and you are his subjects, and that’s got to stop,” Jensen said, prompting cheers. “We are trying to safeguard in a very real way all that has made America great. What is that? That is faith and family and freedom. That is having less government, lower taxes, and protecting life from beginning to end.”

If elected, Jensen said within his first 100 days in office he would rewrite emergency powers for the governor and sign a photo voter identification law. He said he would also back a push to expand gun rights in the state by enacting a stand your ground law, castle doctrine and constitutional carry. At the GOP endorsement convention on May 14, he said he would commute the sentence of Brooklyn Center police officer Kim Potter, who was convicted for the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright.

Jensen running mate Matt Birk, a former center for the Minnesota Vikings, told reporters at a news conference before the Capitol rally that one of his priorities would be addressing the way public schools teach about race, sexuality and gender. Public schools across the U.S. have been roiled with controversy over the past year over school curricula that conservatives claim are aimed at indoctrinating children in progressive ideology.

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“I’m very alarmed, like a lot of parents, at the ideology, when it comes to some of this, ethnic studies, if you will, some of the gender ideology that’s being taught in schools,” Birk said. “That is a belief system not unlike any other type of religion. A religion is a system of beliefs and we make it a point that we don’t teach any religion in schools.”

After a contentious endorsement convention earlier this May, candidate Kendall Qualls spoke in support of Jensen at the Monday rally and urged voters to rally around the Republican-endorsed candidates. Qualls ended his gubernatorial campaign at the state endorsement convention in Rochester when delegates favored Jensen after nine rounds of voting, but he did not immediately express support for Jensen.

Former Hennepin County sheriff and state public safety commissioner Rich Stanek did not seek his party’s endorsement at the convention as he was recovering from injuries suffered in a car crash. His campaign said he continues to weigh whether he’ll continue running.

Republican attorney general candidate and political newcomer Jim Schultz also briefly spoke to the crowd Monday. Despite winning the GOP endorsement at the convention, Schultz continues to face a challenge from 2018 Republican candidate Doug Wardlow, who had originally pledged to honor the party endorsement. Dennis Smith did not seek the party endorsement but later announced he was dropping out of the race. 

Alex Derosier covers Minnesota breaking news and state government for Forum News Service.
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