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GOP State Sen. Michelle Benson says she's running for Minnesota governor

Benson said her priorities as governor would be public safety, empowering parents in education, and leading an "opportunity economy."

BLAINE, Minn. — State Senator Michelle Benson (R-Ham Lake) says she is getting into the Minnesota governor's race.

Sen. Benson made the announcement with her family and friends Wednesday at a business in Blaine.

"Minnesota should be a place where dreams can grow. Where families succeed. It will be hard work, but together, we can make Minnesota safer, better, and stronger. A brighter future for Minnesota starts right now. Let's get to work," Sen. Benson said in a press release.

Benson said she "was raised on a farm in western Minnesota. This taught her the values of hard work and discipline, so when she saw her community hurting from government overreach and overspending, she was prepared to stand up and speak out." 

Benson said her priorities as governor would be "public safety, empower(ing) parents in education, and lead(ing) an opportunity economy."

Benson is serving her fourth term in the Minnesota Senate and is a member of four committees. She chairs the Health and Human Services Finance and Policy committee. 

Soon after Benson's announcement, the DFL issued a statement criticizing her track record on health care, same-sex couples' rights, and COVID-19.

"From her first days in office, Michelle Benson has worked to strip health care away from millions of Minnesotans," wrote DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin. "She has belittled those suffering under the skyrocketing costs of insulin, suggested ‘going to the emergency room’ as a way to avoid rationing medication, and advocated against a bill intended to save the lives of diabetics dying because of the cost of their medication." 

If elected, Benson would become the first female governor of Minnesota.

Also Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka announced Wednesday that he plans to step down from his post, setting the table for what many anticipate will be a run for governor. 

State Sen. Carla Nelson of Rochester is also widely expected to join the race.

All will join former state senator Scott Jensen. The Chaska family physician has been working since March to try to lock up Republican convention delegates, the Associated Press reports.

Republicans haven’t won a statewide governor's race in Minnesota since 2006, when then-governor Tim Pawlenty captured a second term. Currently both U.S. Senate seats and all of the state’s constitutional offices — governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and auditor — are held by Democrats.

During a July sit-down interview Gazelka told KARE 11's Jana Shortal he was definitely thinking about a gubernatorial run. He said he believes state residents will be looking for a change from Gov. Tim Walz, citing both the governor's response to unrest following the murder of George Floyd and his handling of the COVID-19 crisis.

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