Voter guide: See where candidates for Minnesota governor stand

Six people in a collage
From left to right, Tim Walz, Gabrielle Prosser, Steve Patterson, Hugh McTavish, James McCaskel and Scott Jensen. All six are running for the spot of Minnesota Governor for the 2022 midterm election.
Courtesy photos
Published: Sept. 27 | Updated: Nov. 4

Incumbent DFL Gov. Tim Walz, Republican Scott Jensen and four other candidates are running for governor of Minnesota in the general election on Nov. 8.

Minor party candidates include Steve Patterson with the Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Party of Minnesota, Hugh McTavish with the Independence-Alliance Party, James McCaskel with the Legal Marijuana Now Party, and Gabrielle Prosser with the Socialist Workers Party. 

Here’s a look at where the candidates stand on top issues for Minnesotans.

Abortion

Tim Walz: He supports abortion rights and issued an executive order on reproductive health after Roe v. Wade was overturned. The order would offer legal protection to people from out of state who come to Minnesota for reproductive health services. 

Scott Jensen: He said in March that he would “try to ban abortion,” but after Roe v. Wade was overturned he added that “rape and incest would absolutely be exceptions” and “if a pregnant woman's mental or physical health is endangered, then this is no longer any kind of a situation for the legal system. This is a private matter between patient and doctor and we have to do everything we can to preserve the health and the life of the pregnant woman.”

His running mate Matt Birk came under fire nationally in June for comments he made about abortion at a National Right to Life Convention. Birk said American culture "loudly but also stealthily promotes abortion" by "telling women they should look a certain way, they should have careers."

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Steve Patterson: He supports abortion rights and said on his website, “Whether it is protecting the first and second amendment, legalizing Marijuana, or restoring the choice to terminate a pregnancy. I believe that our freedoms are necessary.”

Hugh McTavish: In a TikTok video this year, he suggested pushing for a state statute that would codify Roe v. Wade and the right for women to have abortions into law. 

James McCaskel: “Abortion and contraception are essential to the health of women. It is vital for women in Minnesota to have access to health care that is safe and reliable,” he told MPR News in an email.

Gabrielle Prosser: She supports abortion rights. “The fight for the right to abortion is only part of the fight for reproductive rights and family planning, which is in turn only one facet of the fight for the emancipation of women. And the fight for women’s emancipation is totally bound up with the fight to strengthen working-class families, an important refuge workers have in this crisis-ridden capitalist system,” Prosser said in The Militant.

Crime, police and public safety

Walz: He has recently called for lawmakers to back more public safety spending and tougher sentences for criminals, and this summer tasked the Minnesota State Patrol with helping law enforcement patrols in the Twin Cities. In January he proposed a state budget that included $300 million for public safety, but state lawmakers did not pass it before the legislative session ended.

Jensen: In June, he outlined a plan to fight crime that included longer prison sentences for violent offenders, deploying the State Patrol to high crime areas and quicker deployment of the National Guard “preemptively if needed upon intelligence information” of possible unrest. 

Patterson: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

McTavish: In a TikTok video, McTavish blamed a recent crime increase on teens and people in their 20s, and said Walz caused the increase by closing schools, colleges and workplaces during the COVID-19 pandemic. He also said on Twitter that instead of hiring more officers, “bad” officers should be fired and replaced.

On his website he said, “We should only forbid you from doing something if your action hurts someone else, not if it only hurts you.  Thus, smoking, alcohol, and recreational marijuana should be legal and not taxed to death since they mostly only hurt the person consuming them, not other people.”

McCaskel: “As Minnesota saw a 21% rise in violent crime in 2021, it's time for a new strategy to combat crime. Statistics show that funding law enforcement does not decrease crime, but increases it. It is not my belief that defunding the police would also solve the problem. Trust must be built between the police and community to resolve this issue. A supporter of our judiciary should not think that you deserve a maximum sentence for a first offense, but they should also understand that multiple offenses should not be treated the same as a first offense,” he told MPR News in an email.

Prosser: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

Economy and tax policy

Walz: Walz has pushed for both higher and lower taxes during four years in the governor’s office. In his first year, he tried to bump up the gas tax and a metro sales tax as part of a transportation proposal, but his plan didn't get through the Legislature. In 2021, he proposed higher income taxes for the state's top earners — those with incomes above $1 million. That didn't make it either.

But over the years, he's also backed expanded tax credits and signed legislation that modestly cut income taxes. During the most recent session, Walz proposed one-time rebate checks. That stalled. He later made a deal with House DFLers and Senate Republicans to cut income taxes and eliminate the tax on Social Security, a plan that also got sidetracked.

Jensen: He says Minnesota’s government spends too much, and has suggested the time is now to scrap the tax code as we know it. “We're going to look hard at getting rid of the personal income tax,” Jensen told the Republican Party convention before nailing down the endorsement this May. 

In June, he put some more-restrained tax measures in writing, saying he would seek tax cuts of at least $5,000 for every family of four in Minnesota and fully repeal the state’s tax on Social Security income. He previously proposed suspending the state’s 28.6 cent-per-gallon gas tax. 

Steve Patterson: “As a business owner who lost a previous business due to Gov. Walz shutting the economy down, I am determined to make sure small businesses are prioritized and protected,” he wrote in an opinion piece for the Post Bulletin in Rochester. He also told the outlet that the state should create incentives for people to work, such as tax breaks for employees who work more than 40 hours per week.

McTavish: “I do not care about gross economic output; I care about the average per person income and wealth and the income and wealth of the bottom 90 percent of our population,” he said on his website.

McCaskel: “We need to ensure that workers receive livable compensations and a safe working environment as we rebuild and bring back jobs in Minnesota. By graduating every year with certified labor skills, we could grow the job market,” he told MPR News in an email.

Prosser: “Sentiment, I think, for unions is high but support for workers who are fighting isn’t, necessarily,” Prosser said, according to The Worthington Daily Globe. “That’s why we put a lot of emphasis on supporting workers … we need our own labor party that can contend for political power.”

Education 

Walz: The year Walz took office, the state spent about $9.6 billion on early childhood through 12th grade education. That’s due to exceed $10.4 billion for the current fiscal year — although a plan to add hundreds of millions of dollars more stalled in the Legislature. Walz said that should be just a start.

In a Tweet this year, Walz said, “As a former classroom teacher for 20+ years, I know that education is key to economic opportunity. Our economic expansion plan would make Minnesota teachers the highest paid in the country.”

Graduation rates have largely been static for Minnesota students overall under Walz’s watch. Gaps between white students and those of color remain.

Jensen: In September, he released a 10-point plan for education that calls for more enforcement of student truancy laws, and seeks greater focus on standards to measure math, reading, science and social studies proficiency. He wants schools to be better equipped to deal with children with violent backgrounds or in mental health crises.

Perhaps most notable are components around school choice and parental involvement. Jensen wants to add new layers of parental notification and input into what’s taught and what might be off limits; he says some lessons around race and culture go too far. His choice proposal would steer some dollars that would otherwise go to public schools into scholarships or accounts for families who want to pick a different learning option, including parochial schools.

Patterson: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

McTavish: Much of his public speaking points focus on criticizing lockdowns in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the closure of schools, but MPR News could not find public comment on current education proposals.

McCaskel: “I believe in rebuilding the ladder of success through education. High school students should have the option to earn skilled certificates with their high school diploma as part of their high school curriculum. As a result of a financial benefit, students could no longer claim that they wouldn't use anything they learned in class in the real world,” he told MPR News in an email.

Prosser: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

Environment and climate change

Walz: He is pushing for 100 percent of Minnesota’s electricity to come from renewable energy by the year 2040. He released a climate plan in September that outlines ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions with six broad goals: clean transportation by increasing the share of electric cars on Minnesota roads to 20 percent by 2030; climate-smart natural and working lands; resilient communities; clean energy and efficient buildings; healthy lives and communities; and a clean economy.

Jensen: He wants to lift the state’s ban on building nuclear plants and its “clean car” rules which are not yet in effect but will require manufacturers and dealers to supply more electric vehicles for the Minnesota marketplace. He also wants to build public-private partnerships to develop wood pellet energy from unused wood residual products in northern Minnesota, and develop methane digesters in rural Minnesota to capture and produce energy.

Patterson: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

McTavish: He said in a TikTok video that he wants to “convert half the state back to nature. I want to see buffalo roaming wild across the southern half of the state.” On his website he said he sees this as a solution to global warming, which he called one of the two biggest crises in human history.

McCaskel: “Switching To 100% Clean Energy By 2035 is A Plan We Should Responsibly Take Care of Before Global Warming Effects Minnesotas at A Rate We Can’t Turn Around,” he told MPR News in an email.

Prosser: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

Farming and rural Minnesota

Walz:Gov. Walz’s budget reduced property taxes for farmers and he signed a law that’s expected to bring nearly $200 million in tax savings to Minnesota farmers.”

This year, Walz signed an agriculture funding bill that included $18.4 million to cover farmers’ losses due to last year’s drought, as well as money to develop broadband in rural areas.

Jensen: He has said regulations are hurting rural Minnesotans. On his website, he outlines plans to “revive rural Minnesota” that would include enacting an executive order instructing state agencies to respond to permit requests more efficiently, increase funding to build more rural roads, expand broadband projects linking rural Minnesotans to the internet, and enhance the Beginning Farmer Tax Credit.

Patterson: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

McTavish: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

McCaskel: “It’s important to protect Minnesota agriculture. Last year’s drought was unexpected and hurt a lot of Minnesota farmers. We can prevent this from happening again by investing in support for beginning farms and expanding internet access for Minnesotans in rural Minnesota,” he told MPR News in an email.

Prosser: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

Guns

Walz: He has said more needs to be done to make sure guns don’t wind up in the wrong hands. He dismissed suggestions that additional background checks or temporary removal of guns from people in crisis would be cumbersome.

“As a longtime gun owner, as someone who's been around these both as military weapon, and as someone who owns them today, even calling it an inconvenience to do a background check, or to have in place red flag laws that do not take away your constitutional rights, I don’t understand that,” Walz said, adding, “I think planning a funeral for a nine year old is more of an inconvenience right now.”

Jensen: When he was in the Legislature, Jensen co-sponsored bills to expand background checks for gun purchases and to require people to report when guns were stolen. The bills did not pass. Since then he has changed his stance and become more staunchly pro-gun. In a podcast interview last year, Jensen was asked if he would sign if universal background background checks were passed. Jensen responded, “No I would not.” In a series of videos on his website, he said he owns six guns and accused the government of stockpiling ammunition, so as governor he would want to “figure out what is happening with ammunition.”

Patterson: In an opinion piece for the Post Bulletin in Rochester, he wrote “I stand behind the Second Amendment and law enforcement. I am firm in my mission to make Minnesota a Castle Doctrine state.”

“Castle Doctrine” is the concept that gives people the right to defend themselves and use deadly force against an attacker in their homes — hence, “castle.” According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, at least 28 states have laws expanding on that concept, asserting “that there is no duty to retreat an attacker in any place in which one is lawfully present.” Minnesota is not one of those states; people here are required by law to retreat from a threatening situation if possible.  

McTavish: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

McCaskel: “It is my belief that the Second Amendment should always be protected, but our legislature should pass responsible and safe firearms laws to ensure the communities protection,” he told MPR News in an email.

Prosser: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

Health care 

Walz: After reports of widespread neglect and abuse in Minnesota care facilities and a legislative audit that found major deficiencies in state oversight, Walz signed into law a 2019 reform package for the care of elderly people and vulnerable adults across Minnesota. He also worked on legislation to increase transparency in prescription drug costs and signed the “Alec Smith Insulin Affordability Act” to provide relief to Minnesotans struggling to afford their insulin

Earlier this year, Walz and Flanagan released a plan that would establish “a MinnesotaCare buy-in to create an accessible health insurance option for Minnesotans who lack health insurance, as well as for Minnesotans who have insurance but struggle to cover high out-of-pocket costs.” It also proposed “funding to deeply examine how free primary care could be offered to all Minnesotans.”

Jensen: He strongly opposes single payer health care in Minnesota, also sometimes called “Medicare for All.” He supports pricing transparency in clinics and hospitals, and also worked on the insulin affordability bill.

Patterson: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

McTavish: In a TikTok video, he said as governor he would propose “health care providers have to charge the same amount to everybody except for reduced fees for people with low income,” that “they have a list of what they charge” for common procedures, and “they are able to tell you whether they accept your insurance or not.”

McCaskel: In a tweet, when someone asked him his stance on single-payer health care and abortion, he wrote, “Everyone Should Be Allowed An Equal Opportunity At Life Whether it’s Healthcare Or Education, Bedroom Business Should Be Private & It Shouldn’t Concern Elected Officials Especially Men!”

“Health Care Is A Human Right For Everyone. You shouldn't have to give up your right to live because you can't afford health insurance,” he told MPR News in an email.

Prosser: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

Immigration 

Walz: Minnesota has a long history of welcoming refugees, which Walz supports. He has said “Immigrants strengthen our communities. We are grateful to everyone who calls Minnesota home.” He declared Oct. 26 as Immigrant Integration Day in Minnesota.

Jensen: When asked whether Minnesota government should be “forced” to accept refugees, Jensen said “If we’re going to reach out and take someone in, we have to be able to care for them. I don’t care if you’re talking about an orphan child or a refugee. This is absolutely wrong,” and “We are literally undercutting so much of Minnesota’s fabric of life, and the government — the federal government — has no right to do that.”

Patterson: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

McTavish: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

McCaskel: “What makes Minnesota great is its diversity, our state is beautiful,” he told MPR News in an email.

Prosser: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

The 2020 Election

Walz: He upheld the results of the 2020 election as fair and accurate. In a Jan. 3, 2022 interview with MPR News host Cathy Wurzer, Walz said “There’s a large number of our Republican neighbors who believe [democracy] is under threat because the election was stolen. Which there’s actually no proof of that. None whatsoever. That under minding of our system, that worries me.”

Jensen: President Joe Biden beat Trump in Minnesota by seven points in 2020. When asked if he believes the 2020 election was “stolen” from Donald Trump, Jensen said “I have no way of knowing that.” Earlier this year, Jensen suggested that the state’s Democratic secretary of state should go to prison for his running of the state’s election system.

Patterson: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

McTavish: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

McCaskel: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

Prosser: MPR News could not find recent public comment on the issue.

The Associated Press, as well as MPR News associate producer Matthew Alvarez and editor Kaila White contributed to this guide.

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