Five GOP candidates for governor say they’ve had COVID-19

A group of people in arm chairs
Republicans Michelle Benson, Neil Shah, Paul Gazelka, Mike Murphy and Scott Jensen took part in a gubernatorial candidates' forum in Wayzata, Minn., on Tuesday.
Tim Pugmire | MPR News

Five of the Republicans running for governor revealed Tuesday night that they have had COVID-19, but they remain firmly opposed to any vaccination mandates.

Michelle Benson, Paul Gazelka, Scott Jensen, Mike Murphy and Neil Shah discussed their personal health histories and vaccine views during a 3rd District candidate forum in Wayzata.

Jensen and Murphy said they have not been vaccinated. The others have been. 

Jensen, who is a physician and former state senator, stressed that he does not tell his patients what to do on vaccines, even though many doctors and public health officials have been urging people to get vaccinated.

Create a More Connected Minnesota

MPR News is your trusted resource for the news you need. With your support, MPR News brings accessible, courageous journalism and authentic conversation to everyone - free of paywalls and barriers. Your gift makes a difference.

“The patient should champion their own health care,” Jensen said. “The doctor should be a resource. So, I have not been vaccinated. I don’t intend to. And I encourage my patients to make a good decision and to talk to their families, and parents get to choose for their children.”

Benson, a state senator who chairs the health and human services finance and policy committee, is also opposed to mandates.

“I don’t think it’s the job of the press and politicians to tell you how to make these decisions,” Benson said.

Murphy, who is the mayor of Lexington, Minn., said his recovery from COVID-19 wasn’t fun. He could not taste or smell anything for three weeks after he got COVID. Still, Murphy said he does not intend to get vaccinated.

“If you want to get the vaccine, that’s fine,” Murphy said. That’s between you, your doctor and your god — and not a government. A government should not mandate.”

Gazelka, a state senator and former majority leader, stressed that he made the choice to get vaccinated after he had COVID.

“I would never ever force somebody to be vaccinated,” Gazelka said.

Shah, who is also a physician, said he was vaccinated when he contracted COVID-19. He also suggested he took ivermectin, a drug that is used to deworm horses. It is also approved for some conditions in humans, but the Food and Drug Administration has not approved its use for COVID-19 in humans or animals. 

“I took horse dewormer, and I’m still here,” Shah said.