Benson runs for governor; Gazelka signals he may be next in

Published 12:51 pm Wednesday, September 1, 2021

BLAINE — Republican State Sen. Michelle Benson, of Ham Lake, launched her campaign for Minnesota governor on Wednesday, attacking Democratic Gov. Tim Walz for his handling of the pandemic and public safety.

“The left is defunding the police, crime rates are skyrocketing. The governor shut down our schools, and test scores are falling like a rock. He crippled main street businesses,” Benson told supporters outside s precision machining company in Blaine.

Benson spoke shortly after GOP Sen. Paul Gazelka, of East Gull Lake, said he’s resigning Senate majority leader. It’s a step he has said he would take if he was going to run for governor. He has said he’ll announce his decision after the State Fair but is leaning toward running.

Both will have to work to catch up with former state senator Scott Jensen, who’s been running hard since March to try to lock up Republican convention delegates. Jensen, a family physician from Chaska, has been running on a platform of vaccine skepticism and opposition to how Walz has led the state’s response to the pandemic.

Benson hedged on whether she’ll abide by the party’s endorsement. Speaking to reporters afterward, she noted the turmoil within the Minnesota GOP and said the party needs to be able deliver a campaign that can beat Walz.

Walz has not announced yet whether he’ll seek a second term.