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Jensen concedes Minnesota governor's race to Walz

In a 12:30 a.m. speech at the Minnesota Republican Party's election night party in Minneapolis, Jensen congratulated Walz on a hard-fought campaign.

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GOP candidate for Minnesota governor Scott Jensen delivers his concession speech early Wednesday, Nov. 9, with his wife, Mary, by his side.
Alex Derosier / Forum News Service
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ST. PAUL — Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz will serve another four years at the helm of the state after GOP gubernatorial nominee Scott Jensen conceded defeat early Wednesday morning, Nov. 9.

In a 12:30 a.m. speech at the Minnesota Republican Party's election night party in Minneapolis, Jensen congratulated Walz on a hard-fought campaign.

“We would have loved to have been victorious We thought we should be victorious. We thought we spoke to the issues that could really be affected by this election,” Jensen said, later adding: “I am so grateful to all of you, I’m grateful to my family, I’m grateful for the exhilarating experience of running statewide.”

The Associated Press called the Minnesota gubernatorial race for Walz late Tuesday evening, as the early vote count showed the first-term governor leading Jensen. As of just before 1 a.m. Wednesday, Walz was leading Jensen 52.6% to 44.3% with more than 2.4 million votes cast. There are more than 3.5 million registered voters in Minnesota.

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Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and former Minnesota Sen. Scott Jensen
John Autey and Scott Takushi / Pioneer Press

Upon news of the AP's projection, Walz declared victory at the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party's election night party in St. Paul. DFL Chairman Ken Martin issued a statement congratulating Walz on securing a second term.

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“For the first time in Minnesota history, the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party will hold the office of Governor of Minnesota for four consecutive terms," he said. "Governor Walz and Lieutenant Governor (Peggy) Flanagan faced unprecedented challenges during their time in office, but they led Minnesota with courage, integrity, and an unwavering commitment to the well-being of all Minnesotans.”

Earlier in the evening, state GOP chairman David Hann expressed hope that uncounted ballots would deliver the votes needed to give statewide Republican candidates victories. But as the number of reporting precincts moved past the halfway mark, that advantage never materialized for Jensen.

Addressing supporters around 11 p.m. Tuesday, Jensen and running mate Matt Birk said they weren't going to concede the election just yet.

“Never once did we stop playing until the clock hit triple-zero,” said Birk, a former center for the Minnesota Vikings. The candidates and their spouses would take the stage about an hour and a half later to deliver their concession speeches.

Jensen, a Chaska family practice physician and former state senator, and running mate Birk hoped to be the first Republican candidates to win the governor’s office since 2006. Most media polls published in the last two months indicated Walz had a comfortable lead over Jensen.

Walz and Flanagan have presided over an eventful first term that saw a global pandemic and widespread unrest that came with a national reckoning over race and policing following the murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police in 2020. On the campaign trail, the governor touted record-low unemployment, a historic $9.3 billion budget surplus and said he would seek to spend more on education and other investments in the state’s future. Walz, who served in Congress before being elected in 2018, is a former high school teacher who served in the National Guard for over two decades.

Jensen campaigned on criticizing Walz's record on COVID and 2020 unrest and attempted to blame the governor for a surge in violent crime that started in 2020 — going as far as calling Walz the “godfather” of a national crime wave that coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen checks in to vote at Laketown Town Hall in Chaska, Minnesota, on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.
John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press

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“In his inaugural address he said he would unite people, he would unite Minnesota. His slogan was ‘one Minnesota.’ That’s a sham,” Jensen said in an Oct. 28 debate with Walz on Minnesota Public Radio. “Tim Walz failed; Minnesota is broken; we’re fractured; we’re more deeply divided than I can remember in my lifetime.”

Walz said Jensen had a “dark, pessimistic, negative view of the state” not in line with reality for most Minnesotans. He stood by his decisions during the worst of the pandemic, and by his administration’s response to 2020 unrest.

Jensen, a Chaska family practice physician, rose to prominence as a critic of measures to slow the spread of COVID-19. The pandemic has all but faded as an issue in the race, but rising crime and inflation took center stage as did abortion following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade in June.

Republicans have attempted to downplay abortion’s significance in the election, and Jensen pivoted on the issue after saying earlier this year that he would try to ban the procedure. He accused Walz of “weaponizing” the issue in the campaign as abortion is still constitutionally protected in Minnesota.

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Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz feeds his ballot into the scanner after voting on Election Day at the Linwood Recreation Center in St. Paul on Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.
John Autey / St. Paul Pioneer Press

Walz and Flanagan support abortion rights and have pledged to protect them in Minnesota.

On public safety, Jensen backed tougher penalties for repeat offenders, creating a specific offense for carjacking and new rules that would keep judges from handing lighter sentences to violent offenders. Walz has not advocated for the same stiffer penalties Jensen and Republican legislators have promoted, but he has proposed significant funding for law enforcement agencies, earlier this year proposing $300 million in funding for law enforcement agencies across the state.

Jensen also made addressing the impacts of inflation a central theme of his campaign. He and Birk floated the idea of eliminating the state individual income tax as one way to boost Minnesotans’ incomes. Minnesota would lose about $15 billion in revenue without state income tax — around half of its annual revenue. DFLers say the losses would mean cuts to critical social programs and education.

Walz said he does not believe the governor is in a position to address national and international inflation trends directly. To provide families relief from soaring costs of living, Walz proposed using the state's historic budget surplus to send payments of up to $1,000 per individual and $2,000 per family. Walz in his first term signed into law some tax cuts and new tax credits.

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GOP gubernatorial hopeful Scott Jensen speaks with reporters at the Minnesota Republican Party's election night party Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, in Minneapolis.
Alex Derosier / Forum News Service

Besides Jensen and Walz, there were four other candidates on the ballot : James McCaskel with Legal Marijuana Now, Independence-Alliance candidate Hugh McTavish, Socialist Workers Party candidate Gabrielle Prosser and Steve Patterson with Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis.

The state pays the governor a yearly salary of $127,629. The lieutenant governor is paid $82,959 yearly. The salaries of Minnesota's constitutional offices are pegged to a percentage of the governor’s salary, which the Legislature last raised in 2016.

ELECTION 2022:
While results still need to be certified, Minnesota was just one of three states to top the 60% mark, along with Wisconsin and Maine, according to the U.S. Election Project.

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