Walz gets chance to boost national exposure as new chair of Democratic Governors Association

A man speaks at a podium
The Democratic Governors Association has elected Minnesota's Tim Walz as its new chair. The DGA works to elect Democratic governors nationwide.
Tim Evans for MPR News

Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz will have his eyes on and a key role in elections in other parts of the country next year after ascending to chair of the Democratic Governors Association.

He gained the backing of other Democratic governors during a weekend meeting in Phoenix. It puts Walz in the thick of the party’s decisions and efforts in 11 states that will hold elections for their top state offices, including a few races the Democratic party will be fighting to hold or have a shot at flipping next year.

The DGA works to elect Democratic governors nationwide and is often among the largest sources of money for TV ads in competitive races. It plowed more than $7 million into the 2022 Minnesota governor’s race where Walz comfortably secured a second term.

Walz was first elected governor in 2018. During his first term, Minnesota's government was divided: Republicans controlled the Senate and Democrats controlled the House.

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Walz said that blue-red mix in Minnesota will help him when advising Democratic gubernatorial candidates in other states.

"We're not a solidly red or solidly blue state. We're one of those purple states. A lot of those races that are out there, a lot of these principles will apply to them also. How do you run a campaign? How do you make them work for you?” Walz said in an interview with MPR News on Sunday.

Both chambers of Minnesota’s Legislature and all statewide offices are now held by Democrats. But the state’s congressional delegation is comprised of four Democrats and four Republicans.

Walz said his goal will be to elect Democratic governors in states that don't always vote blue. That includes places like North Carolina, Missouri and Indiana in 2024. North Carolina has a Democratic governor now who isn’t campaigning for another term; the other two are places where Republican governors are moving on. New Hampshire, where the incumbent isn’t running, is also high on the list for both parties.

For Walz the role brings more national exposure. But it also means more travel, an expectation of sharper elbows and a lot of fundraising, including from corporate donors who give a lot to the party governors associations.

Walz said he’s willing to put in the money asks.

“Over the years I've gotten pretty good at being able to do that and I'll make sure I'm out there talking to folks about why investing in Democrats makes a difference for them, why it helps grows the economy, why it helps make sure we're innovating for the future,” he said. “And I'll go sell that message to folks and get their support,”

Walz had already been traveling the country promoting Minnesota policy wins since the all-DFL power structure enacted sweeping changes this year.

He’s not the first Minnesota governor to take on a national assignment. Former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty chaired the bipartisan National Governors Association for two years during his tenure, and he also was a vice chair of the Republican Governors Association.