In gubernatorial campaign, Tim Walz calls for bridging divisions

Photo by Deb Gau U.S. Rep. and Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Tim Walz spoke to area residents at an event at the Brau Brothers taproom in Marshall Friday evening.

MARSHALL — Whether it’s rural versus metro, or liberal versus conservative, divisions have become a major focus in Minnesota politics. But U.S. Rep. Tim Walz said this week that he thinks Minnesotans are ready for something more hopeful.

During a visit to Marshall, Walz said he’s running for Minnesota governor with a vision of one Minnesota, made up of people with common interests. It all comes down to “the idea that we can bridge these gaps,” Walz said.

Walz, DFL-Mankato, was in southwest Minnesota on Friday with stops at both the “Thriving By Design” conference at the Upper Sioux Community, and in Marshall. While he was in Marshall, Walz spoke with media and attended an early voting kickoff event at the Brau Brothers taproom. Early voting for Minnesota’s Aug. 14 primary started June 29.

Walz currently represents Minnesota’s First Congressional District, which stretches across the southern part of the state. He is running for governor with running mate Peggy Flanagan, DFL-St. Louis Park, who is currently a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives, representing District 46A.

Walz said part of the reason he is running for governor now is because Minnesota will need to make some big decisions in its future. In order to help make those decisions, “We’re going to have to find someone who can bridge those divides,” he said.

Walz said his vision as governor would be to help build bridges so Minnesotans can achieve common goals, like improved transportation infrastructure and quality schools. Having a strong educational system is key in developing a competitive workforce, he said.

“This is our number one natural resource — our people,” Walz said. And as Minnesota becomes more diverse, it is also crucial to close the achievement gap for students of color, he said.

Walz said Minnesota needs to have fully-funded schools, and be able to recruit and retain quality teachers.

Supporting Minnesota’s economy and education system also means addressing issues like child care and housing shortages.

“Those things are starting to pop up, too, as challenges,” Walz said.

Walz said as governor he would support making childcare more affordable and accessible, and address regulations that make it difficult to run a childcare business. That’s another example of an area where Minnesotans should be able to work toward a common goal, he said.

“We don’t shy away from regulation for an environment to keep people safe,” Walz said, but he’s hearing more people say that some of the regulations don’t make sense.

Walz said as governor, he would like to encourage better relationships between state agencies and the public.

“We want state agencies to be seen not necessarily as regulatory agencies, but as partners,” he said.

Strengthening Minnesota’s transportation infrastructure — and finding a balance of rural and urban transportation needs — is another issue that’s come into the spotlight in recent years. Walz said addressing infrastructure needs “Starts in the understanding that we’re all in this together.” Minnesota communities need both highways for commerce and ways to move people efficiently, including transit. When the focus is just on the rural/urban funding split, he said, “We’re not working in concert.”

As governor, Walz said, his role would be to ask what it will cost to meet those needs, and where the needed funding could come from. The options to consider include raising the gas tax, although the challenge is that Minnesota gas taxes have seen diminishing returns, he said. Walz said he would also talk about possibilities like bonding or forming an infrastructure bank for transportation funding.

Walz said transparency and the ability to work together with legislators would also be key goals for him if elected governor.

“You should not be surprised by what’s in my budget,” Walz said.

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