by Steve Karnowski
Rochester, Minn. ( Associated Press) — Business executive Kendall Qualls led Saturday as Minnesota Republicans met to endorse a candidate to challenge Democratic Gov. Tim Walz in November’s election.
Qualls, who would have become the state party’s first black gubernatorial candidate if he won support, took the lead on the fourth ballot and increased his margin to 42% on the fifth. Dr. Scott Jensen, a vaccine skeptic and former state senator who led the first two ballots, had 35%. Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy, who took a razor-thin lead on the third ballot, slipped to third place with 22%. A candidate needs 60% to claim support.
All had pledged to respect the party’s support and relinquish the right to run in the August 9 GOP primaries, assuming there was no deadlock. Former President Donald Trump, who is still a powerful force within the party, has not endorsed anyone in the Minnesota race.
2,200 delegates had to complete their work by 6 p.m. Saturday to clear the Rochester Mayo Civic Center, but the relatively fast and smooth electronic voting process appeared to reduce the chances of running out of time on Friday and leaving without support . Representatives and party leaders are hoping that at least one of their candidates will become the first Republican elected to statewide office since Gov. Tim Pavlenti was re-elected in 2006.
Quolls highlights his rise from poverty to college, becoming an army officer and business leader. He said his life is a testament 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 doesn’t think I should be here. Tim Walz wishes I wasn’t here at all,” said Qualls, applauding loudly. “And poor Joe Biden, he tells people who look like me that I’m not black, that we’re not black, We didn’t vote for him. Well, for President Donald J. After I voted for Trump – 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, a state senator from East Gull Lake who has asserted his support for law enforcement, dropped out after the third ballot and gave his support to Qualls. Ham Lake’s Sen. Michelle Benson, who was a candidate but dropped out before the conference, joined Gazelleka in support of Qualls.
Jensen, a family doctor from Chaska, started the race early and raised the most money. He garnered a national following in the form of his COVID-19 vaccine skepticism – and his opposition to mask mandates and school and business closures – as an endorsement of medical freedom. In his speech, he emphasized his efforts as a state senator to take a stand against the Walz administration’s handling of the pandemic.
“Everyone in this room has understood on some level that Tim Walz has failed. He did it. But who will step forward? Who will serve for the benefit, safety, and security of all people? Who answers Minnesota? is going to help us become a bright and shining star?” Jensen asked in a video before his speech. “The answer is you.”
Murphy, the mayor of Lexington, a small suburb northwest of Minneapolis, slammed Walz for his handling of the pandemic and the sometimes devastating unrest following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in 2020.
Murphy said, “When Walz locked us up, kicked us out of our churches and masked our children, I banned it in my city and closed down our community by making it a health freedom sanctuary town.” ,” said Murphy. “When Walz and (President Joe) Biden attacked our Second Amendment, I defended it in my community by declaring my city a Second Amendment sanctuary city, and I will do so for the state.”
On the fourth ballot Friday night, the convention endorsed business attorney Jim Schultz for attorney general, an office the Minnesota Republican has not won since 1968. He is hoping to oust Keith Ellison, a former congressman who led the prosecution team that won the murder conviction of former officer Derek Chauvin in Floyd’s death.
Schultz defeated Doug Wardlow, who was the party’s candidate in 2018 and is general counsel in MyPillo. That company’s CEO, Mike Lindell, has risen to national prominence for perpetuating the false claim that Trump won the 2020 election. In addition, former Washington County Judge Tad Judd and Attorney Lynn Torgerson also lost. Former legislator Dennis Smith plans to challenge Schultz in the GOP primary.