Party heavyweights are out in force as campaign enters final weekend

People stand in line and clap outside
DFL Gov. Tim Walz, Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison were among those listening to a Get out the Vote rally outside the Minnesota Capitol on Fri. Nov. 4, 2022.
Brian Bakst | MPR News

A seasonal fall chill arrived Friday as bundled-up Minnesota political candidates embarked on their final campaign blitzes, driving home party themes and the high stakes they say are before voters.

In a sign of the competitive nature of this year’s election, the leaders of both national political parties came to Minnesota to rally their bases.

“We need you folks. We need you to turn out like you have never turned out before,” said Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison, a South Carolina native who made quick note of the cold. “Because a lot of folks are doubting us. A lot of folks believe that we can't deliver.”

He implored the party faithful to stress accomplishments under Democratic administrations in St. Paul and Washington rather than let Republicans drive the closing narrative.

“Folks, where their superpower is fear and division, our superpower is hope,” Harrison said.

Inside the Capitol hours later, Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel forecast a “red wave coming.”

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“With each and every one of you getting out and working as hard as you can between now and Election Day it's just four days – we can change the course of your state because enough is enough,” she said.

Woman stands at podium and points with crowd
Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel helped lead a rally with GOP governor candidate Scott Jensen and running mate Matt Birk at the Minnesota Capitol on Fri. Nov. 4, 2022.
Brian Bakst | MPR News

She expects concerns over inflation and crime to motivate voters toward Republican candidates.

“They are not statistics. They are families; they are people,” McDaniel said. “And it is not okay for our leaders to turn their back on the dangers that they have brought to our streets.”

McDaniel and Harrison were just passing through. For the candidates competing for Minnesota votes, it’s early in what will be a closing grind.

A bus emblazoned with the faces of five statewide DFL officeholders rolled up to the state Capitol to provide the backdrop as members of the ticket spoke in turn.

“We have got to close strong. And we need every one of you to get out there and talk to more neighbors, more folks, more folks who want to get involved and be a part of our community. You got to invite people to democracy,” said Attorney General Keith Ellison.

He’s among the incumbents most at risk, facing a stiff challenge from first-time Republican candidate Jim Schultz.

Other closely watched races include: DFL Secretary of State Steve Simon versus Republican challenger Kim Crockett and DFL State Auditor Judi Blaha versus Republican Ryan Wilson.

Of course, the governor’s race has attracted the most attention and money.

Gov. Tim Walz spoke last at the DFL rally in front of the oversized image of his face.

“This is a little strange, I have to tell you. But I'm thinking as I look at this man, has it been four years,” he confessed.

Walz said he didn’t anticipate having to confront a global pandemic or a racial reckoning brought about by George Floyd’s killing by police. He said he didn’t weigh his own re-election prospects as he decided how to confront those crises.

Woman speaks into mic in front of ad
Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan spoke at a rally outside the Minnesota Capitol on the Friday before Election Day, Nov. 4, 2022.
Brian Bakst | MPR News

But now Walz’s fate rests with voters, and he urged supporters to redouble their efforts.

“Knock the doors, call the people, get your members out there, talk to your brother in law who drives you friggin crazy about this stuff, but tell them to make the vote for the right things. And this state moves forward,” Walz said. 

“There's two visions, one that's hopeful together, moving us forward, where kindness and compassion and decency are on the ballot,” he added. “And then there's one that's bleak and negative and takes us in the wrong direction.”

Former state Sen. Scott Jensen, the Republican nominee for Minnesota governor, said Walz should be held accountable for not stemming crime and for learning losses that resulted from pandemic restrictions that limited in-person classes.

“I promise you that as governor [of] Minnesota I will speak the truth, regardless of how much trouble it gets me into. And I had no idea how good I am at getting into trouble,” Jensen said at the GOP rally. “I will not flinch. And at the end of the day, we will trailblaze the issues because Minnesotans expect nothing less from their leaders.”

The DFL bus tour continues through the weekend. Jensen said he plans to focus on the seven-county metro area in his closing swing after spending time earlier this week in greater Minnesota.

Party leaders expect several of the statewide races to be tight through the end.