Qualls takes the lead as Minnesota GOP chooses gubernatorial candidate | Health, Medicine and Fitness

By STEVE KARNOWSKI – Associated Press

ROCHESTER, Minn. (AP) — Business executive Kendall Qualls took the lead on Saturday as Republicans in Minnesota gathered to endorse a candidate to challenge Democratic Gov. Tim Walz in the November election.

Qualls, who would become the state party’s first black gubernatorial candidate if he wins endorsement, took the lead in the fourth round and extended his margin to 43% in the sixth. Dr. Scott Jensen, a vaccine skeptic and former state senator who led the first two ballots, had 38%. Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy, who took a tiny lead in the third round, was knocked out when he slipped to 19% in the sixth round. A candidate needs 60% to claim approval.

All had pledged to honor the party endorsement and waive the right to run in the Aug. 9 GOP primary, assuming there was no stalemate. Former President Donald Trump, still a powerful force within the party, did not back anyone in the Minnesota races.

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The 2,200 delegates had to finish their work by the 6 p.m. Saturday deadline to leave the Rochester Mayo Civic Center, but Friday’s relatively quick and smooth electronic voting process seemed to reduce 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.

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.

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.”

Murphy, the mayor of Lexington, a small suburb northwest of Minneapolis, criticized Walz for both his handling of the pandemic and the sometimes destructive unrest that followed the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020 .

“When Walz shut us down, locked us out of our churches, and hid our children, I banned it in my city and shut it down by making my community a sanctuary city for health freedom, free of all the COVID nonsense,” Murphy said. “When Walz and (President Joe) Biden attacked our Second Amendment, I stood up for it in my community by declaring my city a Second Amendment sanctuary city and I will do it for the state.”

On Friday night’s fourth ballot, the convention approved business attorney 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 led the prosecution team that won the murder conviction. of ex-officer Derek Chauvin in the death of Floyd.

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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