FALCON HEIGHTS, Minn. (FOX 9) - NOTE: This story includes an interview with Republican governor candidate Scott Jensen at his Minnesota State Fair booth. FOX 9 will interview DFL Gov. Tim Walz at the State Fair next week.
Republican governor candidate Scott Jensen says his campaign will start airing television ads in September to counter attacks from DFL-aligned groups in the Minnesota governor's race.
DFL Gov. Tim Walz's campaign war chest was more than eight times Jensen's cash on hand in July, allowing Walz to go up with his own ads. Meanwhile, third-party groups are going negative on Jensen, introducing the family physician from Chaska to general election voters before he has the chance.
"Our campaign team, we don’t have quite the amount of money they do – you might have heard that," Jensen said in an interview at the Minnesota State Fair. "And so we’re thinking September we’ll start responding. Honestly, Tim Walz has more money than we’d ever dream of. It’s coming out of his ears."
Without significant money, Jensen has turned to debates as an opportunity to get his message to voters. He wanted to debate Walz at the State Fair, but the first-term governor didn't agree to a face-to-face meeting.
The pair met once for a debate, at the agricultural show FarmFest in early August, but no others are scheduled. Walz has told reporters he expects to do "a couple" more debates this fall.
"We’ll do it anywhere," Jensen said. "We don’t have to have an audience there. A studio would be fine. An audience would be fine. State Fair would be fine. Chamber of Commerce would be fine. Game Fair would be fine. We’ve said yes to all those traditional venues. Gov. Walz said no."
That has put additional emphasis on the State Fair, which organizers expect could draw 2 million people this year. Jensen plans to be at his booth for all 12 days of the fair.
"I think it's huge," Jensen said. "We’ve had hundreds and hundreds of people stream through here already...There are people who are literally visibly angry about the fact that no conversation is taking place. They’re disgusted with Tim Walz and the ducking of the debates."
Jensen said public safety and education are the topics he heard about most from fairgoers on Day 1.
Jensen has faced controversy this week after Democrats released a video of an April speech in which the candidate compared COVID-era mandates to 1930s Nazi Germany.
Jensen has defended the comments, saying in a campaign video that he wouldn't bow to the "thought police." In Thursday's interview, he sought to refocus the conversation.
"What I talked about was incrementalism. The encroachment of our liberties over and over again moving forward," Jensen said. "People think different ways. Bottom line is, that’s not on the ballot. What’s on the ballot is crime, inflation, education."
Jensen declined to say whether, as governor, he would sign a tax bill that wipes away Minnesota tax liability on student loan forgiveness. On Wednesday, President Joe Biden detailed plans for up to $20,000 in forgiveness for tens of millions of borrowers.
While the forgiveness is not federally taxable, it's subject to state income tax in Minnesota. Several DFL state lawmakers quickly said the Legislature should act to wipe away the state liability.
When asked, Jensen said, "I'd have to do my due diligence on that." Jensen said Biden's announcement amounts to "trying to play Santa Claus" in a way that is unfair to Americans who didn't attend college or already paid off their debt. He said the estimated $330 billion cost would have budgetary consequences.
Walz also attended the State Fair's first day, briefly speaking with voters when the gates opened at 7 a.m. before meeting with U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg. The governor is scheduled to return to the fairgrounds five more times and will do interviews with TV news stations, according to an aide.