MORGAN, Minnesota — Hundreds packed a shed in southwestern Minnesota Wednesday to watch incumbent DFL Gov. Tim Walz and GOP challenger Dr. Scott Jensen spar over issues in a preview of what promises to be a contentious battle for governor.
The forum, moderated by Blois Olson of WCCO Radio, took place at Farmfest 2022 in Redwood County and lasted over an hour. It was the candidates' first face-to-face meeting of the campaign, and served as a contrast both in policy stance and style: Walz dressed in a t-shirt and baseball cap, while Jensen was slightly more formal in a polo. Jensen grabbed his microphone and stood up to answer every question from the moderator, while Walz remained seated for the entire forum.
KARE 11's John Croman was in the community of Morgan, and says the audience included people in Walz t-shirts, some in Jensen jerseys and plenty of farmers who listened with their arms folded, not applauding either candidate.
Croman reports that while the panel’s questions were all ag-related, at several junctures the Republican challenger pivoted to Walz's handling of the COVID pandemic and the unrest following the death of George Floyd that triggered rioting and lawlessness in Minneapolis. "Both were very animated in old fashioned stemwinder speechmaking mode, so the live audience definitely was a motivating factor," Croman reflected.
Perhaps the most emotional exchange was when Jensen, talking about the current administration's COVID restrictions, said Walz decided people should stay at home on their couches. Walz angrily shot back, telling Jensen not to call Minnesotans lazy.
Jensen: "I do disagree with Governor Walz that his program of 'One Minnesota' has become far less a reality and more an antonym of what we have seen."
Here are some other topics the candidates sparred over:
Family farms vs larger operations
Walz said, "It doesn't have to be a competition... we in Minnesota are proving that there's room for everyone and that the market is going to drive where we go in those solutions."
"Over my dead body will Minnesota ever sell farmland to foreign corporations, count on it," Jensen responded.
Increasing exports, making farms more profitable
Jensen told the audience farms need to get new technology in order to get exports up.
Walz said Minnesota farmers are doing just fine. "We've increased agriculture outputs by 15% during my term. It's as high as any state in he nation," Walz said.
Jensen didn't pull any punches bringing up the issue of increasing violence in the Twin Cities. "We need more policing... there is a poison of lawlessness that is bleeding out all across Minnesota."
Jensen also brought up the teen who died Tuesday at the light rail station near Target Field, adding that the violence "needs to stop." "Had I been in the governor's office, the National Guard would have been on the streets sooner," Jensen added, referencing George Floyd's murder in 2020.
Walz did stand up to address this issue -- as Jensen did for the duration of the forum to respond to questions. "It's easy to guess after the fact... I just want to be very clear about this, having served for 24 years in the National Guard, that's a lot more experience than watching 'Top Gun: Maverick' and second guessing where our men and women are putting themselves at risk," the governor said, his voice raising. "That's a big difference."
Walz also told the crowd his administration was behind a bill that would have provided $300 million towards law enforcement, but said Republicans scuttled it.
Watch more Minnesota politics:
Watch the latest political coverage from the Land of 10,000 Lakes in our YouTube playlist: