By STEVE KARNOWSKI – Associated Press
ROCHESTER, Minn. (AP) – Dr. Scott Jensen, a skeptic of the government’s response to COVID-19, won the Minnesota GOP’s approval after a wild ride on Saturday to challenge Democratic Governor Tim Walz in the November election, taking the summit at the top. ninth vote with 65% of the vote.
Jensen, a former state senator who led the first two ballots, regained the lead on the seventh ballot by 59%, just below the 60% needed to claim approval, after Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy backed him after he was eliminated on the sixth ballot.
“Game over,” Jensen told the delegates, accompanied by his running mate, former Minnesota Viking and Baltimore Raven Matt Birk, who used repeated football metaphors to stir up their supporters.
Jensen’s comeback ended a wave of businessman Kendall Qualls, who fell to 33% on the last ballot after taking the lead on the fourth ballot. But Jensen hit a bump in the road when Qualls, who was trying to become the Minnesota GOP’s first black governor, told delegates that Murphy falsely claimed that Qualls had offered to make Murphy his running mate, then took the offer back. .
The claim angered some Qualls deputies and forced two additional votes. And Qualls conspicuously failed to appear onstage with Jensen for the traditional show of party unity, ending the convention in disagreement.
But Qualls and most of the other candidates pledged to honor the party’s endorsement and waive the right to participate in the Aug. 9 primary GOP, and state chairman David Hann told reporters he didn’t expect Jensen to face an election. would be a serious challenge. Former President Donald Trump, still a powerful force within the party, has not endorsed anyone in the Minnesota races.
“Minnesota Republicans have chosen the most extreme and dangerous candidate to lead their party this fall,” Ken Martin, chairman of the Minnesota Democratic Party, said in a statement. “In the past two weeks, Scott Jensen has promised to ban abortion for rape victims and to throw one of his political opponents in jail. Minnesotans want their leaders to focus on helping working families, but Scott Jensen is only interested in his far-right political agenda.”
Jensen, who came to the convention as the presumed frontrunner, admitted he got nervous when he fell behind four times in a row.
“But what made me even more nervous was that I had no idea what was going to happen next,” Jensen said. “And, you know, as a doctor, the last thing you want is a position where you have no control over the situation. So it was a wild ride. I wouldn’t beat around the bush.”
The 2,100 delegates aspired to complete work before a soft Saturday at 6:00 p.m. before leaving the Rochester Mayo Civic Center, but Friday’s relatively quick and smooth electronic voting process reduced the chances of them running out of time and going without approval. leave. Representatives and party leaders hope at least one of their candidates will become the first Republican elected statewide since Governor Tim Pawlenty was reelected in 2006.
Jensen, a GP from Chaska, got the earliest start in the race and raised the most money. He built a national following as he framed his skepticism about the COVID-19 vaccine — and his opposition to masking mandates and school and business closures — as support for medical freedom. In his speech, he emphasized his efforts as a state senator to stand up to the way the Walz administration is handling the pandemic.
“Everyone in this room has understood to some extent that Tim Walz has failed. He’s ready. But who will come forward? Who will serve for the well-being, safety and protection of all people? Who’s going to help Minnesota find its way back to be the bright and shining star of the north?” Jensen asked in a video before his speech. “The answer is you.”
Jensen was repeatedly joined onstage by Birk, who reminded delegates that he refused to visit the White House after the Ravens’ 2013 Super Bowl victory over President Barack Obama’s support for abortion rights.
Qualls emphasized his rise from poverty, going to college, becoming an army officer and a business leader. He said his life is a testament to the failure of the Democratic agenda and shows that the American dream is still alive.
“The radical left thinks I shouldn’t be here. The media thinks I shouldn’t be here. Tim Walz wished I wasn’t here at all,” Qualls said to loud applause. “And poor Joe Biden, he tells people who look like me that I’m not black, that we’re not black, that we didn’t vote for him. Well, after voting for Donald J. Trump for president — both times — and I’m still black. And I’m still Republican. And I’m going to be Joe Biden and Tim Walz’s worst nightmare.”
Former Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, an East Gull Lake senator who emphasized his support for law enforcement, stepped down after the third vote and expressed his support for Qualls. sen. Michelle Benson, of Ham Lake, who had run but dropped out before the convention, joined Gazelka to support Qualls.
However, it was not clear on Saturday whether Jensen would escape a serious primary challenge. Former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, who had sought approval, was sidelined in a recent car accident, skipped the convention while he recovers and has not announced a decision. Hann acknowledged that he hadn’t spoken to the Stanek campaign recently.
“Rich and his campaign team are evaluating all options to move forward to defeat Walz in November,” his campaign said in a statement on Saturday.
On Friday night, the convention approved business attorney Jim Schultz for attorney general, an office that Minnesota Republicans have not won since 1968. Agent Derek Chauvin at Floyd’s death.
Schultz defeated Doug Wardlow, who was the party’s 2018 candidate and is a general advisor at MyPillow. That company’s CEO, Mike Lindell, has become nationally known for perpetuating the false claim that Trump won the 2020 election. Also losing were former Washington County judge Tad Jude and attorney Lynne Torgerson. Former lawmaker Dennis Smith plans to challenge Schultz in the GOP primary.
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