Democratic U.S. Rep. Walz to run for Minn. governor

Published 10:35 am Tuesday, March 28, 2017

By Rachel E. Stassen-Berger

St. Paul Pioneer Press

Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz of Mankato hopes to leave Congress next year as he transitions to the governor’s office.

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“Now is the right time,” Walz told the Pioneer Press of his announcement that he would run for governor. He said watching the meltdown of the Republican health care plan last week struck him as cynical politics at its height. In contrast, he said, he brings “politics of the possible.”

He is the first Greater Minnesota Democrat to declare he will vie for the office DFL Gov. Mark Dayton will leave in 2019. Democrats Chris Coleman, Rebecca Otto and Erin Murphy already have been campaigning for the spot.

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Tim Walz

Tim Walz

Walz said he is motivated to run, in part, because he sees the political divisions between outstate Minnesota and the metro areas, and “it doesn’t have to be that way. … It motivates me to bring an end to that.”

He hopes to ingrain in voters, for instance, that transit projects in the metro area are good for Mankato and a bridge in an outstate township is good for St. Paul.

A retired command sergeant major in the Army National Guard, Walz was a Mankato school teacher when he first ran for Congress to represent Minnesota’s southern 1st Congressional District in 2006. He narrowly won re-election to a sixth term in Nov. 2016, as 53 percent of his district’s voters cast ballots for Republican President Donald Trump.

The Rochester Post Bulletin first reported the news Monday morning.

Walz told the Pioneer Press he will work hard for the DFL endorsement but did not pledge not to run in a primary if he does not win delegates’ backing.

His announcement will leave an open U.S. House seat in the 1st District next year. The district has swung between Democratic and Republican representation in the past several decades.

“The 1st has always been challenging,” Walz said.

While Walz, 52, joins with most Democrats on many issues, his outstate roots may give him an edge with some on an issue that has long divided the party: gun rights.

“I’ve rejected this issue that it’s an either-or. I think it’s a win-win. As a gun owner and an outdoorsman and a hunter, I fully recognize the right — and you should do background checks … but I also think it is important to educate people how important (guns) are culturally in rural areas,” Walz said. Walz has won National Rifle Association backing in some of his past races and has received high ratings from the group.

But on another issue that divides Minnesotans — abortion — Walz cannot build a bridge, said Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion organization.

“Rep. Walz has a long history of supporting the most radical legislative efforts to expand abortion,” said Scott Fischbach, MCCL executive director.

The congressman starts the race with backing from fellow Greater Minnesota Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson, the Pioneer Press confirmed. The longtime western Minnesota congressman publicly endorsed Walz at a Democratic dinner several weeks ago.

Walz is not the only gubernatorial candidate wooing endorsements.

Murphy, a DFL state representative from St. Paul, announced on Monday that she had the backing of eight DFL state House members, as well as former Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon. Last week, Coleman, the St. Paul mayor, announced he had endorsements from 11 former and current outstate city officials.

—Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.