Johnson and Walz square off in gubernatorial debate at the MN State Fair

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Candidates Tim Walz and Jeff Johnson squared off at the MPR stage Friday at the Minnesota State Fair in another gubernatorial debate. 

When Walz and Johnson repeatedly say at debates that they like each other, it’s easy to believe them.

“Tim and I get along great, but we have a lot of differences from a policy standpoint,” Johnson said. “Which I think is good for Minnesota.”

But their sharp differences are also very clear and along traditional party divides.   

“So, I said I’m open to this conversation about the gas tax in Minnesota that is below the average,” Walz said, favoring a gas tax increase to pay for roads. Johnson, however, says taxes are already too high and believes social service and welfare spending is wasteful and could be cut to pay for other things.

“But we should also pay some attention to people who are paying for those benefits, I think the taxpayers need an ally in government,” said Johnson, asking Walz if he’s for huge tax increases.

Walz replied, “Well, first of all, you know this is a truism in life, you get what you pay for in a state. You get what you pay for.”

The question of gun control also came up, with Johnson advocating school security upgrades and armed guards. He focused on mental health and family breakdowns.

“And we never talk about those things,” Johnson said. “Because the answer always is ‘Let’s ban bump stocks, maybe that will prevent the next school shooting and it won’t.’”

Walz countered, saying, “I was both a soldier and a teacher and hardening the perimeter was something we did in the military, it’s not something I want to be doing all the time.”

Walz says he’s a defender of the second amendment, but does not agree with the NRA.

Also, there was a question of President Trump and how to appeal to voters in a state that is very evenly split.  

“I support the direction he’s trying to take this country,” Johnson said. “I think he’s doing a good job. I don’t always agree with him and we have very different styles about it.”

“This is about the independence of the state of Minnesota at a time when our politics is divisive and poison,” said Walz.