Police line up behind Paul Gazelka’s gubernatorial campaign

Gazelka is one of several Republican candidates who are looking for the opportunity to take on Gov. Tim Walz in the general election on Nov. 8.

Officer Arik Matson poses with a group of state senators in June 2021. (Minnesota Senate Republicans)

Minnesota’s 2020 “police officer of the year” and the largest police union in the state have endorsed Republican Sen. Paul Gazelka for governor.

Officer Arik Matson of the Waseca Police Department earned the designation from the Minnesota Chiefs of Police Association last May. He appeared in a “Paul Gazelka for Governor” ad along with his wife Megan.

“Paul has the men and women of law enforcement’s back, and when he says he’s going to do something to help you out, his word means something,” Matson said. “He does the work and he gets it done.”

In a tweet with the ad attached, Sen. Gazelka wrote: “When Officer Matson and his family needed an ally, my team and I delivered. It was an honor to pass the ‘Matson Strong’ bill that increased penalties for attempted murder of police officers.”

Matson was severely injured in a Jan. 2020 shooting while responding to a call about a suspicious individual. Shot in the head, Matson was airlifted to North Memorial Health Hospital in Robbinsdale, where his condition was critical but stable.

Since that time, Matson has undergone multiple surgeries, out-of-state rehab in Nebraska, and regular therapy in Mankato.

In June 2021, one month after Matson was named “police officer of the year,” the Minnesota Senate honored him just prior to passing a public safety budget that included a provision in his name.

The “Arik Matson Bill” increased the maximum sentences for “great bodily harm” against a police officer, judge, prosecutor, or correctional officer: 25 years for someone convicted of this crime, along with five additional years if the great bodily harm was committed with a dangerous weapon or “deadly force.” The previous maximum sentence in both cases was 20 years.

Matson’s announcement was followed by an endorsement from the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association.

“He is an extraordinary supporter of first responders and public safety officials and stands against attempts to defund and dismantle the police. He will always promote public safety proposals that keep communities safe. On behalf of the largest public safety association in Minnesota, we are proud to support Paul Gazelka for Governor,” said Executive Director Brian Peters.

Gazelka is one of several Republican candidates who are looking for the opportunity to take on Gov. Tim Walz in the general election on Nov. 8. Other GOP candidates include Dr. Scott Jensen, Dr. Neil Shah, Gazelka’s colleague Sen. Michelle Benson, former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, Army veteran Kendall Qualls, and Mayor Mike Murphy.

Republican primary elections in Minnesota take place on Aug. 9.