At first campaign event, Gazelka vows to ‘take our government back’

Gazelka joins a growing field of Republican candidates hoping to oust Walz after one term.

Sen. Paul Gazelka greets supporters Wednesday at a campaign stop in St. Cloud. (AJ Kaufman/Alpha News)

Sen. Paul Gazelka made official Wednesday morning at the Minnesota State Capitol what many knew was coming.

With Labor Day in the rear view, and having stepped down from his leadership role last week, the four-term state senator from East Gull Lake announced he is running for Minnesota governor.

Gazelka’s first stop after his big announcement was in St. Cloud. After chatting with dozens of supporters for an hour, he sat down with KNSI Radio’s Ox in the Afternoon for 15 minutes.

“We are taking our government back,” said Gazelka, who rose to leadership when Republicans took control of the Senate in 2016. “If we win governor, we win the House, we win the Senate. Republicans have never had House, Senate and governor at the same time in my lifetime. More often than not, we are playing defense. If we have all three, then we can finally move the agenda I know the people of Minnesota would love.”

Like many Republicans, Gazelka is a vocal critic of Gov. Tim Walz, specifically his use of peacetime emergency powers during the COVID-19 pandemic. He believes Walz’s edicts caused hardship for many Minnesotans and the collapse of hundreds of restaurants and small businesses, while acting like a king.

Sen. Paul Gazelka is interviewed on Ox in the Afternoon during an on-site broadcast at a campaign event at Coil’s Flags & Flagpoles in St. Cloud. (AJ Kaufman/Alpha News)

“As governor, I would absolutely give up many of those powers,” Gazelka explained, noting that abuse of the executive branch is a problem across the country.

As to jobs and welfare, Gazelka believes, “We have a workforce shortage, so anybody that should be working needs to be working … we need to give people hope that they have a future and welfare is not hope.”

Gazelka promised to abide by the Republican Party of Minnesota’s endorsement.

“If I can’t convince the delegates that I am the conservative champion they need, and I know how to win a statewide election … I would not go farther, because anybody that goes farther hurts the chances of winning in November. You waste too many resources.”

Gazelka touted his “tremendous support” from the Iron Range of northeastern Minnesota, police, and blue-collar unions.

He said, however, the GOP needs to do better in the Twin Cities.

“Our candidates that ran for Senate did better than Trump in the Cities, so we know how to reach the Cities. And that’s how you win; you hold true to our conservative values but have a broader coalition.”

He said the state can also do better in education, adding that parents “want choice” from failing schools, especially in the Twin Cities.

“The number one thing we need right now is to take our streets back,” he said. “Minneapolis and St. Paul are going in the exact opposite direction. If our police are given the tools and numbers they need, they can make sure that our communities are safe and build relationships.”

Noting that 85% of Minnesotans trust the police, he said he will not support “any anti-police reforms.”

Gazelka joins a growing field of Republican candidates hoping to oust Walz after one term, including Dr. Scott Jensen, Mayor Mike Murphy, Dr. Neil Shah, and state Sen. Michelle Benson, who made her official announcement in Blaine last week.