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Walz accepts DFL endorsement for governor, warns what will happen if GOP wins in November

The call to defend abortion rights animates the DFL convention Friday night in Rochester.

 Minnesota DFL State Convention
Gov. Tim Walz celebrates with Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan and their families after being endorsed during the Minnesota DFL State Convention on May 20, 2022, at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin
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ROCHESTER — Tim Walz accepted his party’s endorsement for a second term as governor Friday at the State DFL Convention in Rochester, presenting himself as an existential line of defense against a state Republican party that would restrict voting rights, take away a woman’s right to an abortion and leave schools underfunded if given power.

“When our opponents get on the stage and threaten to jail one of the most honorable and effective public servants in (Secretary of State) Steve Simon … promise to defund schools, believe them,” Walz told the delegates.

“When they stood on the stage, two white guys telling you they are going to tell women about their reproductive rights and ban abortion, believe them,” he added.

Walz’s endorsement came a week after the state GOP anointed physician and former state Sen. Scott Jensen as its gubernatorial candidate.

Walz received the full-throated backing of DFL delegates in a convention that held little drama, unlike in 2018, when delegates rejected Walz in favor of the more liberal candidate, now state Sen. Erin Murphy.

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In his acceptance speech, Walz acknowledged the last two years have been unlike “any in our lifetime.”

 Minnesota DFL State Convention
Gov. Tim Walz salutes during the Presentation of the Colors during the Minnesota DFL State Convention on May 20, 2022, at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

But he said his approach to the pandemic was justified by the lives saved. He said if “we had not done it our way,” Minnesota would have risen to the top of the list in terms of statewide death rates — like Mississippi where “people die in huge numbers and the economy is undermined."

Walz also said that to make Minnesota “the best state possible,” paid family leave needs to be provided to families. Quality childcare needs to be extended to them as well. He also said that labor rights are human rights.

“This state is pro-labor and will always be that way,” Walz said to the cheering throng.

Walz’s bid for a second term comes at a time when Republicans nationwide are feeling energized and motivated. Primaries in Pennsylvania and North Carolina featured a surge of Republican voters at the polls this week, outpacing past midterms.

Inflation is at a four-decade high under Democratic President Joe Biden. Gas prices have soared to well over $4 a gallon. And voters are spending more on groceries to feed their families.

But whether that restive mood is taking root in Minnesota, where the GOP has been frozen out of the governor’s office for 16 years and four election cycles, is less clear.

 Minnesota DFL State Convention
Ken Martin Chairperson of the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party welcomes delegates during the Minnesota DFL State Convention on May 20, 2022, at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.
Traci Westcott / Post Bulletin

A social studies teacher from Mankato, Walz represented the state’s 1st Congressional District from 2007 to 2019 before turning his sights on the governor’s mansion.

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A common theme in interviews and comments by delegates Friday was the threat women face in losing their right to an abortion. At the convention, it was used as a rally cry to inspire activists to get to the polls and campaign for Democratic candidates.

“Abortion and birth control on the ballot this year like they have never been in our lifetime,” Sara Stoesz, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood in the North Central States, told the delegates. “We are up for a fight, DFLers.”

“Abortion is essential health care,” said Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan in her endorsement speech. “Republicans want to take us back to before Roe, which is unacceptable.”

Among Walz’s strengths is a sizable fundraising advantage over Jensen.

Delegates at the state DFL Convention in Rochester acknowledged how challenging the last couple of years have been, both nationally and statewide, in terms of battling a global pandemic and the disruptions it has caused. Supporters said Walz governed at a challenging time and used science to steer the state through a once-in-a-century pandemic.

Walz also presided over a time of violence and riots in the Twin Cities after the killing of George Floyd by police and the racial reckoning that ensued. Republicans have accused Walz of letting the riot get out of control and not taking firmer actions.

Delegates expressed optimism over DFL Gov. Tim Walz’s re-election prospects.

Sharon Erickson-Ropes, a former DFL state senator and Two Harbors, Minn., resident, said she was confident that Minnesota voters would give Walz credit for his handling of the virus and elect him for another four-year term.

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“I think Tim did a great job getting us through COVID. People aren’t happy,” Erickson-Ropes said. “But, you know, we’re dealing with a pandemic.”

Erikson-Ropes said the voters would be presented with a choice between a center-left DFL candidate in Walz and a far-right candidate in Jensen.

“Tim is not as liberlal as a lot of Democrats,” she said. “He leads from the center-left, which is where you have to govern a state. So it’ll be center-left against extreme right.”

If delegates were feeling a sense of disquiet and uncertainty about their changes in November, they did not betray those feelings Friday evening.

Other delegates also spoke of their concerns and fears about the possibility of Roe v. Wade, a constitutional guarantee of a women’s right to an abortion, being overturned. A draft opinion released last month indicated that the 50-year precedent could be overturned.

“I think people are tired of the divisive Republicans,” said Del Jenkins, a senior network architect and delegate from Cokato, Minn. “And I think a woman’s right to choose is really going to be a front-runner issue in this election.”

Jensen, who is pro-life, said a right to abortion should be limited to cases only when woman’s life is in danger. Although the Minnesota Supreme County’s Doe v. Gomez guarantees a women’s right to an abortion in Minnesota, Republicans say they would seek to change the state constitution and overturn the precedent.

Teresa O’Donnell-Ebner, a La Crescent, Minn., city council member and delegate, also agreed that the prospective loss of abortion rights would motivate Democrats to turn out at the polls.

“I think it’s going to be a big factor,” O’Donnell-Eber said. “I think it’s gonna be another chance for us to have some good conversations with people. I do think that the vast majority want that decision to say in place in one form or another.”

David Erickson, a delegate from Eden Prairie, said he felt that Jensen sounded “a little bit out of the mainstream for Minnesotans.”

“Conservative Democrats, moderate Republicans and independents are such a key block,” he said. “I think they’re going to look at the situation and say that it’s not wise to change horses in the middle of the stream."

Delegates also endorsed state Auditor Julie Blaha for a second term. Blaha was first elected to the post in 2018, taking office in 2019.

Matthew Stolle has been a Post Bulletin reporter since 2000 and covered many of the beats that make up a newsroom. In his first several years, he covered K-12 education and higher education in Rochester before shifting to politics. He has also been a features writer. Today, Matt jumps from beat to beat, depending on what his editor and the Rochester area are producing in terms of news. Readers can reach Matthew at 507-281-7415 or mstolle@postbulletin.com.
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