Caryn Sullivan: Walz commits to debates, but it’s too little and too late

If you’re proud of your accomplishments, then show Minnesotans what transparent leadership looks like. And not at the 11th hour.

Gov. Tim Walz speaks to the media in August. (Office of Gov. Tim Walz/Flickr)

After months of pressure by his opponent, Gov. Tim Walz finally committed to two more debates with Dr. Scott Jensen. But don’t pop your popcorn just yet. Though early voting begins this Friday, Walz won’t debate until Oct. 18, and he’ll only appear on TV in greater Minnesota.

Aside from an Oct. 25 MPR debate, Walz refuses to participate in a debate in the metro. He also won’t appear in front of a live audience. On Oct. 18, the candidates will participate in a debate that will only air in Rochester, Duluth, Mankato, and Moorhead.

Months into the campaign, the candidates have debated just once, though Jensen has said he’d do so weekly. When Walz ran for governor in 2018, he debated his opponent six times.

According to a poll released today by Alpha News, it’s a much tighter race than we’ve been led to believe. Which means debates are vital to helping undecided voters reach a decision — and go to the polls.

Walz is employing a favored Democrat strategy. Instead of undergoing scrutiny, he runs his campaign ads with the help of wealthy donors. So much for One Minnesota. So much for accountability and transparency from a governor who insists honesty and decency are on the ballot.

Though he may not want to answer, we’ve got questions. Here’s a sampling.

Governor, your campaign largely consists of assuring voters you’ll protect their right to abortion. You know this is not a real issue, right? Abortion is legal in Minnesota. The recent U.S. Supreme Court decision had no effect here. And yet your campaign runs ad after ad telling voters abortion rights hang in the balance and you’ll protect them.

Banning abortion in Minnesota is as likely as me climbing Mt. Everest. Both bodies of the legislature would have to vote to advance a constitutional amendment. A majority of voters would have to approve it.  Not even conservative Kansas did that.

Jensen gets that. Why don’t you? Why does your campaign continue to spew this lie?

Minnesota Department of Health data demonstrate most abortions are performed within 10 weeks of conception. Polls show most voters prefer a 15-week limit on abortion. Would you impose any limits?

Your campaign website says you’ll make Minnesota an abortion haven. Governor, what steps will you take to make Minnesota a haven for children who are caught in gang crossfire; seniors who risk being carjacked when they go to the pharmacy; suburbanites who ride the light rail to sporting events; and college students who go bar hopping on the weekends?

You insist you’ll “fully fund” education. According to the Minnesota Department of Revenue, Minnesota spends $39 billion on education. How much do you need to fully fund it?

Minnesota students score lower than Mississippi students on standardized tests. Do you hold your commissioner of education accountable for these results?

You’re pro-choice. Do you also support school choice? If not, why not?

A recent report by the auditor’s office indicated the Department of Human Services mishandled millions of COVID relief dollars intended to help homeless folks. Will you hold the DHS commissioner accountable?

In 2020, you put the state on lockdown. Yet, celebrities flew into Minnesota to join you and other Minnesota politicians at George Floyd’s funeral. What do you say to families you barred from holding in-person funerals for their loved ones?

Governor, you pride yourself on your experience as a football coach and social studies teacher. Did you wait until the night before games to share your playbook? Did you wait until days before final exams to teach your students critical content on which they would be tested?

Why are you waiting so long to give constituents a chance to compare your record and vision with Jensen’s? If you’re proud of your accomplishments, then show Minnesotans what transparent leadership looks like. And not at the 11th hour.


Caryn Sullivan
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A retired attorney and author of the award-winning memoir, "Bitter or Better: Grappling With Life on the Op-Ed Page," Caryn Sullivan has inspired readers with her thoughtful commentary for the past two decades. To learn more about Caryn’s work or to connect, visit