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Republican Michelle Benson suspends campaign for governor

Benson, a Minnesota state senator from Ham Lake, announced she was dropping out from the race in a speech at the 7th District GOP convention.
Credit: AP
State Sen. Michelle Benson reacts at a news conference on Wednesday, April 10, 2019 at the Minnesota State Capitol in St. Paul to a report by the state's legislative auditor on combatting fraud in Minnesota's Child Care Assistance Program. Minnesota's legislative auditor says the Department of Human Services and county agencies must do more to combat fraud in the state's Child Care Assistance Program. In a report Wednesday, the auditor's office finds the department's program integrity controls are insufficient. (AP Photo/Steve Karnowski)

ST PAUL, Minn. — Republican Michelle Benson said Friday she is suspending her campaign for governor.

Benson, a state senator from Ham Lake, said she was dropping out in a speech at the 7th District GOP convention. She said it was “time for Republicans to unite” behind a single candidate to defeat Democratic Gov. Tim Walz in November.

"We need to focus on putting parents back in charge of their kids’ education, ensure safe streets with investments in law enforcement and public safety, and permanently reform government to allow Minnesotans to prosper," she continued in a statement announcing.

Benson also thanked her family and volunteers "who stood with me in this effort."

Benson first announced her candidacy in Sept. 2021 in Blaine, and said her priorities as governor would be "public safety, empower(ing) parents in education, and lead(ing) an opportunity economy." 

Her departure leaves state Sen. Paul Gazelka and former state Sen. Scott Jensen among leading candidates in a crowded Republican field. Jensen, a doctor running as a COVID-19 skeptic, led the field in recently announced fundraising.

Benson was first elected to the Senate in 2010. She said she won't seek re-election.

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.

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