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Walz, Jensen meet in Rochester for 2nd gubernatorial debate

The candidates, who already met on stage once this year, covered topics ranging from education to health care to the opioid crisis, among others.

ROCHESTER, Minn. — Democratic Gov. Tim Walz and his Republican challenger Dr. Scott Jensen met for the second time ahead of the midterm elections Tuesday night, covering an array of topics from the stage in Rochester.

The hour-long debate took place live from KTTC-TV studios in Rochester from 7 to 8 p.m.

Moderators included a panel of local journalists representing Rochester, Duluth, Fargo-Moorhead and Mankato, who touched on several hotly contested topics important to Minnesotans, including health care, the economy, the environment and education, among others. 

Click here for a full recap of Tuesday's debate.


Abortion rights:

While Jensen was running for the GOP nomination, he told MPR and WCCO radio that he wanted to ban abortions. Further, in a Facebook post, he said, “We’re going to ban abortions.” 

In Tuesday's debate, Jensen conceded abortion is a "constitutionally protected right" in Minnesota, saying he "won't ban abortion" because he "can't." 

This is true: For now, the governor can’t single-handedly reverse the Minnesota Supreme Court's Doe v. Gomez decision that protects abortion rights in the state. 

In response, Walz accused Jensen of "changing your convictions as the winds blow," and should Jensen win in November, it could "affect generations to come."

Opioid crisis:

When asked about the opioid crisis plaguing not only Minnesota but the country at large, Walz acknowledged that communities of color are disproportionately hit, while proposing to "get on the front end" of the problem by suing pharmaceutical companies and "working with folks in recovery."

Walz also pointed to a piece written by Jensen in the Minneapolis Star Tribune called "Confessions of a drug pusher," in which Walz alleged Jensen agreed that big pharma marketing tactics impacted his decision to prescribe medications. During the debate, Jensen stated he believes both doctors and the health care system have contributed to the crisis.

Walz and Jensen did agree that stopping drugs from coming across the U.S.-Mexico border was also a top priority to fight the situation, but Jensen claimed Walz "hasn't been strong on that." 

Sports gambling:

Jensen answered "yes" to the question of whether he would support the push to legalize sports betting, saying Minnesota should pass legislation "in an effort to secure funding for meaningful programs."

While Walz said he didn't know if he'd necessarily "push" the legislature to pass a sports betting bill, he would support a law passed by the legislature if it was "managed from a state level."

Feeding Our Future:

In the midst of the massive, $250 million fraud case affecting Feeding Our Future — a nonprofit that claimed to help feed hungry children during the pandemic — Jensen continued to allege that Walz's office knew about the alleged fraud from the start and "could have stopped it but he didn't." He also accused Walz's office of being "lazy" and initiating a "cover-up" for not immediately notifying the legislative auditor of its findings.

In the past, Walz has said the administration didn’t publicly announce and condemn the Feeding Our Future fraud because the FBI needed time to build a case against the suspects in the case. Walz said Tuesday night that when a state crime appears to intersect with the federal government, it's essential to work together on — and make sure that — safeguards are in place.

The candidates also discussed the state's response to the murder of George Floyd, how to address and compromise on environmental issues like emissions standards, biofuels and mining, and how to help children succeed in school.

In case you missed it the debate, you can watch it in its entirety below or on KTTC's website.

The third and final debate between Walz and Jensen is scheduled to take place Friday, Oct. 28, and will be hosted by Minnesota Public Radio.

For a complete guide to voting in this year's midterm elections, click here.

WATCH: Gov. Tim Walz, Dr. Scott Jensen debate from Rochester

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