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Five candidates for Minnesota governor face off at Caledonia GOP forum

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CALEDONIA, Minn. — Republicans in the southeast corner of Minnesota had a chance to hear from five of their party’s candidates for governor Saturday in Caledonia.

The candidates took part in an hour-long forum at the Four Seasons Community Center, in an event sponsored by the Houston County Republican Party, before an audience of 60-70.

Two current state Senators, Paul Gazelka and Michelle Benson, were joined by former Sen. Scott Jensen, Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy and physician Neil Shah.

All are running in the August primary with hopes of unseating Democratic Gov. Tim Walz, who’s wrapping up his first term in office.

Murphy described the incumbent governor as “evil,” “vindictive,” and a “tyrant.”

The candidates accused Walz of abusing power through mandates during the pandemic.

Walz was blamed for making Minnesota less safe — by permitting demonstrations after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis — and allowed cities to be burned.

The candidates called for critical race to be banned from Minnesota schools with Shah calling the state teachers’ union “terrorists.”

There were repeated references to carjackings, which have happened recently in the Twin Cities area.

The candidates argued that Minnesota needs a Republican governor to appoint state Supreme Court justices, and Republican lawmakers to pass bills to make abortion illegal in the state.

Gazelka said his party has not controlled the governor’s office and both houses of the legislature in over 50 years. The five often said Republicans need to “take back” the state and the country, and “save America” from liberals and the federal government.

Audience members voted by paper ballot in a straw poll taken at the end of the forum. Jensen came in first with 22 votes, followed by Shah with 15, Murphy with 14, Gazelka with 9, and Benson with 4.

A native of Prairie du Chien, Brad graduated from UW - La Crosse and has worked in radio news for more than 30 years, mostly in the La Crosse area. He regularly covers local courts and city and county government. Brad produces the features "Yesterday in La Crosse" and "What's Buried on Brad's Desk." He also writes the website "Triviazoids," which finds odd connections between events that happen on a certain date, and he writes and performs with the local comedy group Heart of La Crosse. Brad been featured on several national TV programs because of his memory skills.

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