Walz-Jensen Debate: Minnesota Gubernatorial Candidates In Their Own Words

Walz Jensen

Gov. Tim Walz and challenger Scott Jensen squared off in a debate Tuesday night in Rochester, marking the first general election gubernatorial debate between the two candidates.

The debate, hosted Tuesday night by KTTC, covered a wide range of topics over an hour period. Below, we have compiled some excerpts of the candidates’ own words on a variety of important topics.

School safety and crime

Jensen: We’re seeing kids, teachers, parents being, if you will, victimized at football games every Friday night. This is a product of a lawlessness that swept over our state. And it started with Tim Walz delaying in May and June of 2020. He unleashed, if you will, a poisonous spread of lawlessness. Arguably, he is the godfather of the crime epidemic that has swept our country. I think what we can do with kids in school is we have to look at new things in terms of controlling access points. But we also need to recognize that the police are going to have an awful lot of expertise in how can we do this better? We need more cops on the street corners. We need restorative justice programs. And we need to respect the work police do. It isn’t going to help us when we see the governor get behind Ilhan Omar, when she comes out and says the police are a cancer and need to be dismantled and defunded.”

Walz: “This doesn’t happen in other countries. And this plague of violence we see and I will make the case that these school shootings of children who can’t even be identified because of the damage that’s been done by these shooters that end in their schools. There’s things that we can do. One of the first things we can do is making sure, in every one of my budgets did increase the opportunity for public safety. We had a $450 million budget this year that was killed in the legislature when Scott told the Republican legislator to step away from that. That’s money that we increased in LGA to allow for more. But it’s much more than that. We have guns on the streets that were meant for war. We have the opportunity to do smart things, whether it be background checks or making sure we have red flag laws. In many of these cases, once we go back and deconstruct this, the easy access to these firearms is one of the problems we see that on our streets today.”

Abortion

Jensen: In Minnesota, abortion is a constitutionally protected right, and the only way that really feasibly gets changed is through some sort of amendment ballot. And that would mean that 4 million Minnesotans would have the chance to decide where Minnesota comes down on this position. But because – and I think Tim Walz has said this, as has Keith Ellison and numerous legal experts that I’ve talked with — because in Minnesota, abortion is a legally protected right. It is not on the ballot in November.”

Walz: “My entire career, I’ve trusted women to make their health care decisions. I don’t believe anybody who sits in this office should come between them. Scott was very clear in May. He mocked me and said, ‘No kidding, Sherlock, I’m running for governor to get things done. We’re going to ban abortion. That’s not news.’ That changed after Roe versus Wade. And I think what most of us know, again, you heard this go to many different places. This is not about trusting women. It’s not about holding clear convictions. It’s about changing your positions as the winds blow.”

Health care

Walz: “One of the things that we know is, is making sure that people are insured on the front end so that they’re able to get the preventive care that’s necessary. We’ve been advocating and have expanded on Minnesota Care. Here in Minnesota, we were able to make sure that the provider tax stayed on that allowed that care to be delivered. We saw just this last week that Minnesota ranked first in the nation for women’s and children’s health care. Our initiative has been to get more children involved in this, to do more of the well care, to make sure that we were reaching out to all corners of Minnesota to keep the prices down.”

Jensen: “We need reinsurance to keep premiums down. But right now, in terms of the exchange, we still do have problems. We have rate cliffs where people are all of a sudden falling off that advantageous place to be. And all of a sudden, instead of paying 10% of their income for premiums, they go to 20, 25, even 30%. That’s a problem. We need to make sure that everybody can have their appendix removed without sitting at home too long because they’re worried about whether or not they can afford it.”

Feeding Our Future fraud

Jensen: “Honestly, I think the governor’s office was lazy. There were signs right out of the blocks. In fact, Governor Walz said that he was made aware of the situation in April of 2020, but then his office called the news reporter back and said, Well, no, it is a summary. And he spoke. And then he called back and said it was November, but it doesn’t matter when it was. The fact is, the governor had every right to believe that fraud may be taking place with this Feeding our Future’s $250 million. At that point in time, according to state law, he has a responsibility to notify the Office of the Legislative Auditor. He never did that. The legislative auditor has gone on record with a letter saying that never happened. That’s breaking the law. Governor Walz and his team could have stopped this anywhere along the line.”

Walz: “All of us can agree that fraud is unacceptable. If it’s in the public sector or the private sector. I know when we first came to office, we had the MNLARS system. Some of you remember not fraud, but it was about $100 million of an ineffective system. We worked together bipartisan to put that in place. We’ve also implemented those in many of the agencies. We’ve had many audits by the Office of Legislative Auditor, unprecedented audit of the governor’s office just this year, released in September, as well as Department of Health. During COVID, the federal government relaxed some of their rules and they sent out, as they should have, aid to states in terms of unprecedented numbers. Now, making sure those safeguards are in place, absolute priority. Once the Minnesota Department of Education found this, they alerted the FBI. Now it’s an ongoing investigation. I guess we’ll get more clarity once they start to come to that.”

Final remarks

Walz: “I know you [the voters] care about this state. You get a choice here of a vision of Minnesota: one that questions our elections, one that tells women they can’t make their choices, one that defunds our public schools. Or you get an opportunity that brought so many of us to Minnesota, an opportunity for a state that is inclusive. An opportunity for a state that — You know what, we do spend a little bit more on health care. We do spend a little bit more on education. We do spend a little bit more on our roads. We’ve got the fourth-largest amount of roads in the country behind California, Texas and Illinois. We know that you invest in the future, and that’s what comes back to you tenfold over. Our children are fundamental to us. Investing in fully funding education and making sure they have the best start is what we can do. Making sure we’re investing in the workforce of the future. Business community knows we’re going to have to tackle this issue. We do have the lowest unemployment rate and most of our people work. We need to attract people here by being a state that is welcoming, by being a state that says, you know what? We’re going to help figure out this crisis around child care. And it’s a state that says, you know what, when problems come up, it’s not enough just to complain about them. We’ve seen it across the country. We’ve seen it here. We should have zero tolerance on crime. We should invest the money that we know we need to invest and we need to collaborate together. And then we should make smart policies, making sure we keep dangerous military weapons out of the hands of our children, making sure we’re continuing to invest in innovation at the University of Minnesota and our state colleges systems and our local community colleges. Those are the ways that Minnesota has come together. I’ve talked a lot about one Minnesota. I didn’t come up with that. That’s what we believe, whether it’s mining on the Iron Range, whether it’s farming in southern Minnesota or whether it’s a job in the Twin Cities. Folks who try and divide us apart aren’t going to do it. This is our opportunity to learn from what’s happened, to come out of the pandemic and to create a Minnesota that everybody can thrive in.”

Jensen: “Everyone I see across the state, north, southeast, west has endured some pretty trying times. I think everyone has felt some heartbreak from watching people’s lives turned upside down. And I think everybody has grasped at some level that Tim Walz has failed. It got away from him. He tried. He repeated mistakes. He funneled active COVID-19 disease in the nursing homes. He locked down businesses. He locked out kids. He locked in frail, elderly. The question is, who’s going to step forward? Who’s going to try to find a new path for Minnesota? Clearly, we’re not one Minnesota. Who is going to help Minnesota find its way back to be the bright, shining star of the North, to be that economic hub of the Midwest. You, you Minnesotans have the opportunity to do this. You have the power to take back your rights. You have the power to turn your agencies instead of being heavy-handed punitive agencies, whether you’re talking to the DNR or the Met Council, whether you’re talking the MPCA. You have the ability to step forward. We need to stand up together. We need to recognize that Matt Birk and Scott Jensen are not professional politicians. We will make mistakes. We will use words that we should have chosen a different word. I will make mistakes, to be sure, but at the end of the day, I will take the slings in the arrows. I will get bruised and bloodied. And I have. I have never had anybody spend $15 million to denigrate my name. And it is what it is. I get it. I’ve been Family Doctor of the Year, and I’ve started businesses and built clinics. I’ve been on school board and president of the Church Council, and the Rotary, and the Lyons. I’ve always been a measured person. To be called extreme has been an unusual experience for me. But this time around, I want you and I and Matt Birk to stand in the arena side by side. I want us to go forward and I want us to heal Minnesota.”

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