We are seeing the beginning of the race for Governor Tim Walz’s seat, with many prominent Republicans entering the race. Paul Gazelka, Michelle Benson and Scott Jenson have all entered the race for the Republican nomination. These high-profile names show how hard Republicans are trying to beat Walz, the incumbent. While Walz has yet to officially declare his re-election bid, he has dropped many hints, and many think that it is just a matter of days. Each one of these challengers to Walz is terrifying in their own way and shows why we need to pay close attention to this election.
Paul Gazelka, the highest-profile, and biggest challenger to Walz, entered the race this week. Gazelka has been the Minnesota Senate Majority Leader since 2016 when Republicans reclaimed the chamber. He resigned from this position this week, so he could launch his run for governor. His time in the Senate has shown his prioritization of social issues, running on a platform centered around keeping same-sex marriage illegal. He has been a consistent opponent of the LGBTQIA+ community, which is shown by his voting history. Gazelka wrote a bill shortly after same-sex marriage was legalized that would have allowed certain businesses to refuse service to same-sex couples. In short, this bill is like other religious restoration acts that were passed around the country at the time. He also was one of the main reasons why a bill to ban conversion therapy stalled in the Senate. He also sent one of his kids, Genna Gazelka, to conversion therapy. When Genna came out, Paul sent them to a therapist that consistently bashed same-sex relations.
Michelle Benson, who entered the race on Sep. 10, is also campaigning hard to have a shot at Tim Walz come November. While Benson isn’t as big of a name as Gazelka, she has had her share of controversies throughout her tenure. Benson spent less time on social issues than she did on healthcare issues in the state. Benson’s huge controversy came during the attempts to pass the Alec Smith Emergency Insulin Act. This bill would have created a state fund that would set up a temporary supply for when diabetics need the drug but can’t pay for it. This bill would only have been a temporary fix, it would have helped many diabetics across the state. The reason why the bill was named after Alec Smith was because Smith died after rationing his insulin. He needed to do this because he couldn’t afford his life-saving medicine, which cost him $1,300 a month.
While other factors led to the failure of the bill, Benson was a large reason for its failure. Benson chairs the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, which was primarily responsible for putting the bill together. Benson’s refusal to pass this bill due to it being just temporary would be acceptable if she was in favor of letting the government control various aspects of medical care. However, Benson is a staunch opponent of the Affordable Care Act, which currently provides healthcare to millions of people across the country. ACA reduced the number of Americans that were uninsured from 16% to an all-time low of 9%.
While many Minnesotans tend to focus their energy on national elections, we all need to make sure that a Democratic candidate wins the election next fall. Tim Walz has his issues including his support for Enbridge and his failure to provide for the Black community. However, he is vastly better than both Gazelka and Benson, who both pose a significant threat to many Minnesotans.