Gov. Tim Walz was a no-show at KSTP’s “Debate Night” Sunday, making him the only statewide Democrat to decline the invitation.
The back-to-back debates featured candidates for attorney general, secretary of state, and governor. The state auditor candidates participated in a pre-recorded debate earlier in the day.
KSTP moderators said Walz declined multiple invitations to attend.
In the first debate, Attorney General Keith Ellison and Republican opponent Jim Schultz clashed over the AG’s role in addressing the dramatic rise in violent crime.
A key moment came when Ellison defended his position in support of a Minneapolis charter amendment that would have abolished the Minneapolis Police Department.
“I don’t know anybody who thinks we should defund the police,” Ellison said.
Schultz rebutted by pointing out Ellison just held a campaign event with Reps. Cori Bush and Ilhan Omar, both vocal supporters of the defund the police movement.
“The attorney general of Minnesota, who we should be able to trust, is lying to the people of Minnesota. He just said he doesn’t know anyone who supports defunding the police,” Schultz said.
The second debate was between Secretary of State Steve Simon and Republican Kim Crockett. Simon began by touting Minnesota’s high voter turnout while Crockett used her time to advocate for “common-sense changes” to Minnesota election law, such as voter ID, to boost confidence in elections.
“I’ve been accused of a lot of things during this election cycle,” Crockett said, “and they are just entirely false.”
Both candidates said they will accept the results of the election if they are outside the margin for an automatic recount.
The final segment was a conversation between Jensen and the moderators. With an empty podium next to him, Jensen narrowed in on Walz’s “absent” leadership, criticizing his response to the 2020 riots and more.
“I’m running for governor because Tim Walz is hurting people,” Dr. Jensen opened. “Minnesota called out, where is our governor? He was absent.”
“If we didn’t have an empty podium, he could maybe respond for himself,” he added.
On the issue of crime, Jensen said Walz’s words don’t line up with his actions.
“Bottom line is he said there should be a heavy cost for criminals. There has not been a heavy cost for criminals,” he said.
During a question about taxes, Jensen said his first priority as governor would be to eliminate the double tax on Social Security benefits. He was also asked about his proposal to phase out the state’s personal income tax, which his opponent has criticized as a move that would primarily benefit the wealthy.
“If we want to become the economic hub of the Midwest, we need to have some big conversations. And we’re not doing it,” Jensen said.
He also addressed the CDC’s recent decision to add the COVID-19 vaccine to its childhood vaccination schedule.
“In Minnesota as governor, there will be no mandate for children to have COVID-19 vaccines in order for them to attend school or go to daycare,” he said. “This is wrong. We have to have parental rights.”
“I think Minnesotans deserve to know, what would Tim Walz do?” he continued.
Jensen concluded the forum by urging Minnesotans to punish Walz for avoiding the public.
“This is a big deal,” he said. “If I didn’t show up at the office, would my patients think that I’d abandoned them?”
Walz and Jensen are scheduled to debate Friday at noon on MPR. This will be their third and final debate. Walz hasn’t agreed to any debates on metro TV stations.