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GOP candidates state their case to replace Walz

Republicans talk about ‘new energy’ during Lyon County fall dinner

Photo by Deb Gau Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka addresses the audience attending the Lyon County Republicans at an annual dinner held at Southwest Minnesota State University.

MARSHALL — Area Republicans say they’re seeing a lot of new energy in their party — and one way they could see it was in the number of Republican candidates running for Minnesota governor.

Four different candidates spoke at the Lyon County Republicans’ annual fall dinner Monday night at Southwest Minnesota State University.

However, the new energy was also sparked by growing frustrations with state government and Democratic leadership, candidates and a draws four area legislators said.

“When you see a lot of people, it means something is going on,” said Rep. Chris Swedzinski of Ghent. “It’s not because the governor is doing a good job that they’re here.”

“Anybody want to get rid of Tim Walz?” former Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka asked, to a round of applause, as he stepped up to the podium. Gazelka announced last week that he would be running for governor.

Gazelka and fellow gubernatorial candidates including state Sen. Michelle Benson of Ham Lake, former state Sen. Scott Jensen of Chaska, and businessman Mike Marti of Kasson all spoke at Monday’s dinner. Lexington mayor and gubernatorial candidate Mike Murphy was also scheduled to speak at the event, but was unable to attend, said Lyon County Republicans co-chairman David Sturrock.

Candidates said some of their key issues ranged from school choice to election security and support for police. They also spoke of frustrations with Democrats and Gov. Walz’s leadership.

“Especially this year, the number of things we had to stop is just remarkable,” Gazelka said. Among other things, he criticized Walz’s use of emergency powers to enforce restrictions on businesses and public gatherings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“He kept big businesses open and closed small businesses, and then fined them,” Gazelka said.

Benson said government overreach had increased under Walz.

“Tim Walz is a co-pilot with Joe Biden,” she said. Benson said Walz stood with President Biden on vaccine mandates, stood with the state of California on what cars Minnesotans can drive, and stood with teachers’ unions instead of parents on re-opening schools.

The “ultimate and worst thing” was the rioting in Minneapolis in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Gazelka said. Gazelka criticized Walz for not calling out the National Guard to respond until days after the rioting started.

“They stopped the riot. But it was too late, and it was Gov. Walz who made those decisions,” he said.

Over the course of the evening, candidates also spoke more broadly about their priorities if they were elected governor.

“The governor is meant to be a servant of the people, and under people,” Marti said. “I believe in taking the power that has been given to the executive branch and giving it back to the legislative branch.”

Jensen said some of his key issues as governor would be elections security, school choice and public safety.

“But I think we also have to talk about spending. In the last 11 years, our budget has gone up 75%. it’s not sustainable,” he said.

Jensen also said science needed to stop being “sacrificed” to politics in responding to COVID-19.

“When it comes to COVID-19, three things had to happen for this pandemic to absolutely take over our lives,” he said. Jensen said the numbers of both COVID deaths and hospitalizations had been inflated, and the PCR tests for COVID-19 gave a lot of false positives. “This is what caused us to lose perspective over the last 18 months,” he said.

In upcoming elections, Minnesota Republicans will have a unique opportunity to take back the governor’s office and the state House of Representatives, while preserving a Senate majority, Gazelka said. Gubernatorial candidates and area legislators said Republicans will need to stay fired up during the next 400 days to achieve that goal.

“When you see disasters, you can either look at it and watch it happen, or you can say ‘I’m going to do something about it,’ and get involved and dig our feet in and change it,” said Sen. Gary Dahms of Redwood Falls.

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