Minnesota voter guide: Where the candidates for governor stand on major issues

Tim Walz and Jeff Johnson
Democrat Tim Walz (left) and Republican Jeff Johnson (right) are both vying to replace Democrat Mark Dayton as Minnesota's next governor.
Lacey Young | MPR News and Derek Montgomery for MPR News

Four men are vying to fill the governor's mansion as two-term DFLer Mark Dayton prepares to leave the office.

The frontrunners are Jeff Johnson, the Republican Hennepin County Commissioner, and Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, who represents much of southern Minnesota in Congress.

Two minor party candidates are also running: Libertarian Josh Welter and Chris Wright with the Grassroots Legalize Cannabis party.

Josh Welter and Chris Wright
Libertarian candidate for governor Josh Welter (left) and Chris Wright with the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party.
Julie Siple | MPR News

MPR News has researched the candidates' stands on several major issues based on their stated platforms and other public remarks.

On President Trump

Johnson: After Trump became the Republican presidential nominee in 2016, Johnson supported Trump. He has sought the president's support in his campaign for governor.

Walz: He does not support Trump and has criticized him during the campaign.

Welter: Welter does not support Trump. MPR News has reached out for comment and will update this post as the campaign responds.

Wright: Wright says he believes questions about the president aren't an issue to Minnesotans.

Gun control

Johnson: His campaign website quotes the Second Amendment and says, "Self-defense is a fundamental individual right and creating new 'gun control' restrictions on law-abiding citizens will only leave guns in the hands of criminals."

Walz: Walz has taken money from the National Rifle Association in his congressional campaigns, but says he has donated that money to a charity for families of troops killed in combat. He supports an assault weapons ban in Minnesota, universal background checks and state-funded gun violence research. He opposes so-called stand your ground laws.

Welter: He wants to maintain the current laws and focus on the issues of family breakdowns, mental health issues and some school policies on discipline.

Wright: Wright supports putting an immediate temporary restraining order on people with a high chance to commit suicide purchasing a weapon.

Health care

Johnson: He's critical of the Affordable Care Act and calls MNsure a "complete disaster." Johnson wants Minnesota to abandon parts of the ACA under federal waivers and wants to create a system for buying insurance across state lines as a means of boosting competition on the insurance market.

Walz: Walz believes "a single-payer type system is on Minnesota's horizon." He supports expanding the state's public health care option for low-income people, MinnesotaCare, to all Minnesotans, if they choose to buy in.

Welter: Welter would not support any new fees or taxes to pay for health-related issues.

Wright: He favors a single-payer health care system and wants Minnesota to opt out of MNsure and the Affordable Care Act in favor of a single-payer system. Wright is also critical of "waste, fraud and abuse" in health care.

K-12 education priorities

Johnson: Johnson would "radically simplify the K-12 education funding formula, start to eliminate some of the state mandates on schools and teachers, and "do everything possible to allow real education choice for every parent in Minnesota." He also says he will take on "political indoctrination" of children in some public schools and pay teachers based on their performance.

Walz: Walz, a former high school teacher, plans to "fully and equitably fund our schools and reject the budgetary gimmicks we've used in the past." He also supports universal pre-K and wants to "nix" voucher programs.

Welter: Welter says the state needs more teachers and supports making it easier for people to become teachers.

Wright: Wright says Minnesota's education should be more like Finland's, noting the country's higher education requirements for becoming a teacher and its free day care programs.

Higher education

Johnson: He wants to promote vocational and trade schools. Johnson says on student loan debt, "one solution is to break the government's near monopoly on student loans and empower the free-market" by allowing private investment options.

Walz: Walz wants the state to cover two years of tuition-free education at Minnesota state schools for students whose families make less than $125,000 per year. He also believes the state should "incentivize college and career pathway high schools where schools partner with higher education institutions to offer a 2 year degree upon completion of high school" and make career and technical schools more accessible.

Welter: Welter does not appear to have a public stance on education policy. MPR News has reached out for comment and will update this post as the campaign responds.

Wright: He says Minnesota "can and should provide a two-year tuition-free higher education which includes trade school."


Johnson: Johnson wants local law enforcement to be able to work with federal authorities on immigration enforcement and opposes "sanctuary" policies. He also says the federal refugee resettlement program has "become very divisive and problematic" for Minnesota and would seek an immediate halt to the program.

Walz: Walz believes local law enforcement should not be tasked with enforcing federal immigration laws, a practice followed by so-called sanctuary jurisdictions. He also supports providing protection for people brought to the U.S. without documentation as children.

Welter: Welter says the U.S. should open its borders and allow more people to enter the country.

Wright: Wright says immigration policy should be left to the federal government.


Johnson: He says he's "pro-Life and believes in the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death."

Walz: He says he "believes in a woman's right to choose" and has a "100% pro-choice voting record" with Planned Parenthood.

Welter: Welter does not appear to have a public position on abortion. MPR News has reached out for comment and will update this post as the campaign responds.

Wright: He supports abortion rights and says "the decision to have an abortion should be strictly between a woman and her doctor."

Jobs and the economy

Johnson: He says ending "over-regulation" would help the economy grow and pledges to eliminate one regulation for everyone his administration would create.

Walz: Walz said he would support unions and fully fund "essentials" including transportation, housing, water and broadband infrastructure.

Welter: Welter wants to cut state spending by 10 percent per year over the four-year governor's term and wants to eliminate the "Met Council and other wasteful and non-representative government entities."

Wright: Wright, former owner of a Bloomington, Minn., computer shop, says "the evidence is absolutely clear that locally owned businesses and local self-reliance is the ticket to prosperity in this country."

Climate change

Johnson: Johnson believes climate change legislation is costly and efforts to mitigate global warming would be ineffective. "We have to end that era of making decisions that hurt people because it makes politicians look good or feel good," he said in a debate.

Walz: He supports increasing Minnesota's renewable energy standard so that at least half the state's energy comes from renewable sources by 2030 and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.

Welter: Welter does not appear to have a public stance on climate change. MPR News has reached out for comment and will update this post as the campaign responds.

Wright: Wright wants Minnesota to have no greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and proposes a law saying "All new electrical power generation shall be renewable."

Copper-nickel mining

Johnson: He says he would advocate for copper-nickel mining projects in northern Minnesota.

Walz: He says he would support the Polymet mining project moving through a review and permitting process, but hasn't thrown full support behind the Twin Metals mining project, which is near the Boundary Waters.

Welter: Property rights are his main concern when it comes to mining projects, and that he's concerned with a mine near the Boundary Waters.

Wright: Wright says he opposes copper-nickel mining, and is "not convinced" a mining operation won't leave behind pollution in Minnesota.

Taxes and government spending

Johnson: Johnson wants "across the board" income tax cuts, to end automatic tax increases, eliminate the statewide business property tax and put a cap on property tax hikes. He also wants to audit every state program funded by taxpayers and create a program for giving tax surplus revenue back to taxpayers, rather than the government spending it.

Walz: Walz wants to expand the Working Family Tax Credit and other breaks for low- and middle-class people. He's pledging to increase the gas tax to cover fixes for the state's "crumbling infrastructure" and says he'd bring local government aid back to pre-Pawlenty administration levels.

Welter: Welter wants to cut taxes and spending by 10 percent each year of the four-year governor term, if elected. "Let's stop asking what the government can do for us," he told WCCO.

Wright: Wright advocates for a "Progressive Tax Policy that reduces taxes for people with less ability to pay and shift taxes to those with the most ability to pay treats taxpayers fairly."


Johnson: Johnson wouldn't support legalized recreational marijuana.

Walz: Walz supports "a taxation and regulation system for adult-use cannabis in Minnesota. African Americans in Minnesota are negatively and disproportionately impacted by these laws."

Welter: Welter supports legal recreational marijuana and would "

Wright: Wright supports legalization of marijuana for recreational use. "Let's abolish routine pre-employment drug testing; free all cannabis prisoners, including those on probation; and expunge all judicial, police and private computer records."

This post was updated Oct. 22 with more information from the Wright campaign.