By STEVE KARNOWSKI – Associated Press
ROCHESTER, Minn. (AP) — Dr. Scott Jensen, skeptical of the government’s response to COVID-19, won the Minnesota GOP’s endorsement after a mad dash Saturday to challenge Democratic Gov. Tim Walz in the November election, passing by the lead in the ninth round with 65% of the vote.
Jensen, a former state senator who led on the first two ballots, regained the lead on the seventh ballot with 59%, just below the 60% needed to claim approval, once Lexington Mayor, Mike Murphy, supported him after being eliminated on the sixth ballot. .
“Game over,” Jensen told delegates, accompanied by his running mate, former Minnesota Viking and Baltimore Raven Matt Birk, who used repeated football metaphors to get their fans excited.
Jensen’s return ended a push by business executive Kendall Qualls, who fell to 33% on the final ballot after taking the lead in the fourth round. But Jensen hit a snag in the road when Qualls, who was trying to become Minnesota’s first black GOP governor endorsement, told delegates that Murphy falsely claimed that Qualls had offered to make Murphy his running mate and then took over. the offer.
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The claim angered some Qualls delegates and forced two extra ballots. And Qualls clearly did not appear on stage with Jensen for the traditional party unity show, ending the convention on a divisive note.
But Qualls and most other candidates have pledged to honor the party endorsement and give up the right to run in the Aug. 9 GOP primary, and state Chairman David Hann told reporters that he didn’t expect Jensen to face a serious challenge. Former President Donald Trump, still a powerful force within the party, did not back anyone in the Minnesota races.
“Minnesota Republicans have chosen the most extreme and dangerous candidate to lead their party in the fall,” Minnesota Democratic Party Chairman Ken Martin said in a statement. “In the past two weeks alone, Scott Jensen has promised to ban abortions for rape victims and 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 entered the convention as the presumptive frontrunner, admitted he got nervous when he fell behind for four ballots 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 to be in a position where you don’t have control of the situation. So it was a wild ride. I wouldn’t hide it.
The 2,100 delegates were aiming to complete their work by a 6 p.m. Saturday deadline to leave the Rochester Mayo Civic Center, but the relatively quick and smooth electronic voting process on Friday reduced the chances of running out of time and leaving without approval. Delegates and party leaders are hoping that at least one of their candidates will become the first Republican elected to a statewide office since Governor Tim Pawlenty was re-elected in 2006.
Jensen, a family doctor from Chaska, started the race early and raised the most money. He has built a national following by framing his skepticism of the COVID-19 vaccine — and his opposition to mask mandates and school and business closures — as support for medical freedom. He highlighted in his speech his efforts as a state senator to speak out against the Walz administration’s handling of the pandemic.
“Everyone in this room has understood on some level that Tim Walz has failed. He’s done. But who’s going to step forward? Who’s going to serve for the benefit, safety and protection of everyone? Who’s going to help Minnesota to be the bright, shining star of the North again?” Jensen asked in a video leading up to his speech. “The answer is you.”
Jensen was accompanied onstage several times by Birk, who reminded delegates that he refused to go to the White House after the Ravens’ 2013 Super Bowl victory because of President Barack Obama’s support for the right to justice. ‘abortion.
Qualls highlighted his rise from poverty, to going to college, to becoming an army officer and business leader. He said his life testifies 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 wishes I wasn’t there at all,” Qualls said to loud applause. “And poor Joe Biden, he tells people who look like me that I’m not black, we’re not black, 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 a 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 state senator who stressed his support for law enforcement, dropped out after the third ballot and threw his support behind Qualls . Senator Michelle Benson, of Ham Lake, who had been a candidate but dropped out before the convention, joined Gazelka in supporting Qualls.
However, it was unclear on Saturday if Jensen would escape a serious primary challenge. Former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, who was seeking approval, was sidelined by a recent car accident, skipped the convention while recovering, and has not announced a decision. Hann acknowledged that he hasn’t spoken with the Stanek campaign recently.
“Rich and his campaign team are evaluating all options moving forward to beat Walz in November,” his campaign said in a statement Saturday.
On Friday night, the convention endorsed corporate lawyer Jim Schultz for attorney general, an office Minnesota Republicans have not won since 1968. He hopes to oust incumbent Keith Ellison, a former congressman who has led the prosecution team that won the murder conviction of ex-Officer Derek Chauvin in Floyd’s death.
Schultz defeated Doug Wardlow, who was the party’s 2018 nominee and is general counsel at MyPillow. That company’s CEO, Mike Lindell, gained national notoriety for perpetuating the false claim that Trump won the 2020 election. Former Washington County Judge Tad Jude and attorney Lynne Torgerson also lost. Former lawmaker Dennis Smith plans to challenge Schultz in the GOP primary.
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