Endorsement: Minnesota should hire Dr. Scott Jensen for next governor
From the editorial: "We've seen enough from Tim Walz to know that we don't trust his instincts. ... We have no doubt that Scott Jensen has learned from the mistakes of Minnesota's current governor and will not repeat them."
No one foresaw a global pandemic or many other events of the past four years.
While Gov. Tim Walz can argue that he and his administration faced unprecedented situations during his four years in office, the fact remains that in the biggest moments, Walz and his cabinet made decisions that caused or contributed to the economic hardships, anxiety, depression and lawlessness that continue to plague Minnesota.
We've seen enough. On Nov. 8, voters should fire Tim Walz and hire Dr. Scott Jensen to be Minnesota's 42nd governor.
In our interview with Jensen, he was quick to acknowledge that Walz didn't have much of a playbook to follow in the early days of the pandemic.
"The first two weeks, everyone wanted to flatten the curve and not overwhelm the health care facilities,” he said. “We all got that. Gov. Walz was leading in uncharted territory, and it's not fair to ignore that.”
But as Walz wielded his executive powers to limit person-to-person contact, Jensen said frustration and anger set in amid a climate of government overreach, struggling students, shuttered businesses and empty churches.
Walz admitted to our editorial board that “There were bumps in there,” but he essentially doubled down on both the methods his administration used and the outcomes they produced.
Fairly early in the pandemic, a serious rift developed between Walz and GOP leaders regarding the governor's use of emergency powers. While we don't doubt his good intentions, his strong-arm methods set the wrong tone and needlessly politicized COVID-19 response in Minnesota. More importantly, prolonged shutdowns and mask mandates took a massive toll on small businesses and our state's collective mental health — a toll will be felt for years to come.
Another major misstep by Walz happened in May 2020, when Minneapolis became the epicenter of racial unrest that eventually spread around the globe. The murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin sparked protests that resulted in two deaths, more than 600 arrests and $550 million in property damage across the Twin Cities — including the destruction of MPD's Third Precinct building.
Hindsight, of course, is 20-20. We don't know what would have happened had Jensen occupied the governor's mansion when Floyd was murdered, or when COVID-19 patients began filling ICUs statewide.
In our interview with Jensen, he admitted that he and his running mate, Matt Birk, haven't always spoken effectively and at times have been too candid in a world where every phone is a camera and a tape recorder. He described his values and goals far differently than has generally been reported.
Regarding abortion, his stance was nuanced. “In Minnesota, it's very clear that abortion is a constitutionally protected right for all women, and the governor's job is not to unilaterally serve as emperor. His job is to enforce the laws of the state. I think Kansas taught us a really valuable lesson. They went overwhelmingly in favor of retaining access to abortion. That should be a statement to the entire nation.”
But what about education? Does Jensen truly see public schools as “a black hole”?
Well, kind of — but not in the way he is being portrayed in his opponent's campaign ads.
“We've added layer after layer of administrative costs,” he said. “Teachers tell me the dollars aren't being deployed into classrooms. We need to pay teachers better, get more of them to six-figure salaries. They are that good, and they're doing very important work, but there's a supply-chain fracture in the teaching profession.”
As for his early remarks on COVID-19 and vaccines, Jensen still argues that a lot of existing medical knowledge was ignored in the race to get people vaccinated, but he's not an anti-vaxxer. “I spend a quarter of a million dollars every year buying vaccines for my clinic,” he told us. “We administer 1,000 flu shots a year. My children are fully vaccinated.”
Governors must be evaluated based on their responses to tough situations. Do they act decisively when circumstances demand it? Do they seek the advice of others — even those predisposed to disagree — when time allows? And ultimately, do their instincts serve the voters well?
We've seen enough from Tim Walz to know that we don't trust his instincts. While he has certainly learned lessons in the past four years, the next four are likely to bring new challenges, and Minnesota doesn't have time for more on-the-job training by its governor.
We have no doubt that Scott Jensen has learned from the mistakes of Minnesota's current governor and will not repeat them. Furthermore, we're convinced that he's the leader we need to expand our economy, improve our mental health and return to the time when our public schools were the envy of the nation.
This endorsement represents the opinion of Forum Communications Co. management.