Former Minnesota Senate Republican leader announces campaign for governor

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Former state Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka is jumping into the race for Minnesota governor, joining a crowded field of Republicans lining up to challenge Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat, next year.

Gazelka, who’s served in the Minnesota Senate since 2011, announced his campaign for governor at the state Capitol in St. Paul on Tuesday, becoming the sixth Republican to enter the race. 

Before announcing his campaign on Tuesday, a gubernatorial run by Gazelka appeared imminent after he announced last week that he would step down as state Senate majority leader. In a letter to legislators, Gazelka said that he planned to “pursue the next chapter in my political life.”

Prior to stepping down from his leadership post, Gazelka also teased a gubernatorial run at the Minnesota State Fair. 

“I think Minnesota needs a change right now, so I’m seriously weighing my options,” Gazelka said, according to the Star Tribune newspaper. He also said that he planned to step down as majority leader, noting that it would be difficult to both run for governor and lead his caucus.

His run for governor will put him up against fellow state Sen. Michelle Benson and former state Sen. Scott Jensen in the GOP primary. Other candidates include Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy, businessman Mike Marti and physician Neil Shah. 

Walz, a member of Minnesota’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, is widely expected to seek a second term in the governor’s mansion, though he has not officially announced a reelection campaign. 

Tags 2022 midterm elections Minnesota governor's race Minnesota politics Paul Gazelka Tim Walz

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