By STEVE KARNOWSKI, Associated Press
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Republican state Sen. Paul Gazelka joined the Minnesota governor’s race Wednesday, accusing Democratic Gov. Tim Walz of failed management in the course of the COVID-19 pandemic and the unrest that adopted the loss of life of George Floyd final summer season.
“Tim Walz’s irresponsible shutdown, based mostly on his lack of know-how of the scientific knowledge, closed lots of of eating places and small companies throughout the state, bankrupting a lot of them,” Gazelka mentioned at a news convention within the state Capitol rotunda. “His inexcusable absence of management in the course of the riots endangered numerous households, companies and communities.”
Gazelka additionally faulted the governor for closing public colleges early final yr because the pandemic reached Minnesota after which maintaining them closed for a lot of the college yr within the change to distance studying.
“He failed a complete technology of kids by closing colleges … placing a lot of them up to now behind that it will be troublesome for them to catch up. But I’m saying we’ll assist them catch up,” he mentioned.
Gazelka, an insurance coverage salesman from East Gull Lake, was the state’s high elected GOP official till he stop as Senate majority chief final week in preparation for his marketing campaign. He joined a rising subject of Republicans searching for to unseat Walz if the governor seeks a second time period, as anticipated. Gazelka mentioned he gained’t run within the main with out the celebration’s endorsement.
Sen. Michelle Benson, of Ham Lake, who leads her chamber’s well being and human companies committee, entered final week. Former Sen. Scott Jensen, a household doctor from Chaksa, has been operating onerous since March. Others searching for the GOP nod embody North Oaks dermatologist Neil Shah, Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy and Kasson businessman Mike Marti.
They’re all hoping to turn out to be the primary Republican to win statewide workplace in Minnesota since Gov. Tim Pawlenty was reelected in 2006. Gazelka mentioned he plans to try this by interesting to disaffected Democrats on the Iron Range by supporting mining, blue collar union employees who assist the Line 3 oil pipeline, and suburban and concrete voters who need secure streets amid calls to defund the police and extra college decisions for his or her youngsters.
Among the supporters becoming a member of Gazelka was Sherral Schmidt, president of the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, and different members of the union.
While Gazelka attacked Walz’s report on the pandemic, he has his personal vulnerabilities there. Gazelka hosted a victory celebration after the November election at which Sen. Jerry Relph, of St. Cloud, in line with his daughter, seemingly caught his deadly case of COVID-19. Gazelka later caught it, too. But Gazelka mentioned he has all the time maintained that the coronavirus is severe. He mentioned he is been vaccinated, and believes different folks ought to get vaccinated, too, however pictures shouldn’t be mandated.
Gazelka famous his report of working throughout celebration strains as majority chief, with two Democratic governors, to ship three balanced budgets with out elevating taxes. He had a very good working relationship with Walz in the course of the governor’s first yr, in 2019, however it frayed over the pandemic as Walz more and more relied on emergency powers to impose restrictions on companies and colleges slightly than searching for legislative approval for main choices.
“Tim Walz says he desires One Minnesota,” Gazelka mentioned, referring to the governor’s 2018 marketing campaign theme. “But I’ve by no means seen Minnesotans extra divided, offended and afraid than they’re at present.”
Walz instructed reporters in Rochester that he is “fairly snug” with defending his report on the pandemic towards assaults from Gazelka and different Republicans. The governor mentioned the numbers present that Minnesota has a number of the nation’s greatest information on stopping COVID-19 deaths and infections, reviving the financial system, and ramping up testing and vaccinations. He mentioned the talk will probably be about who Minnesotans suppose is healthier ready and wiling to make onerous choices.
“The very first thing I’d say is, why don’t you assist me a little bit bit as an alternative of simply criticizing?” Walz mentioned with fun.
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