Tim Walz takes governor’s office

Democrat Tim Walz defeated Republican challenger Jeff Johnson Tuesday night.

Newly-elected Governor of Minnesota Tim Walz addresses the crowd at the Intercontinental Saint Paul Riverfront Hotel in Saint Paul on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

Will Tooke

Newly-elected Governor of Minnesota Tim Walz addresses the crowd at the Intercontinental Saint Paul Riverfront Hotel in Saint Paul on Tuesday, Nov. 6.

by MN Daily Staff

Minnesota will keep a Democrat in the governor’s office for another term.

Rep. Tim Walz, D-Minn., who was re-elected to his seat five times before running for governor, ran against Republican nominee Jeff Johnson. Walz will take over the seat when DFL Gov. Mark Dayton leaves office in January after serving for two terms.

Walz had around 55 percent of the vote while Johnson had around 42 percent. 

“Our democracy is strong tonight,” Walz said in his victory speech. 

Walz, a Nebraska native, moved to Mankato, Minnesota in 1996 where he worked as a social studies teacher and football coach at Mankato West High School. Walz enlisted in the National Guard at 17-years-old and served for 24 years before retiring in 2005. 

“There’s no future if we don’t have teachers,” said Sandy Thomson, who has worked as a campaign volunteer. “That was the first thing that got me with Tim. … You don’t make a million bucks as a teacher, you do it because you believe in it. So, I thought, this is the guy.”

Johnson addressed supporters at the Minnesota GOP party Tuesday night. 

“A lot of you put your heart and soul into this race, just like we did,” Johnson said in his concession speech.

Donna Bergstrom, Johnson’s running mate, also spoke. 

“I want to thank Jeff Johnson for taking a chance … for taking an ordinary citizen into politics.” 

The impact of the gubernatorial race on the University of Minnesota is questionable, but a possible shift in the state House and Senate compositions will be influential for the institution, lawmakers say. These bodies draft final budget and bonding bills before the governor signs off on their decisions.

In a University of Minnesota Alumni Association survey released in October, Walz stressed the importance of continued state investment in the University.

“The state should continue to invest in our institutions to ensure we live up to the promise of accessible, affordable and excellent higher education for all Minnesotans,” Walz’s response said.

At the Minnesota DFL state convention in June, candidate Rep. Erin Murphy, DFL-St. Paul, and her running mate Rep Erin Maye Quade, DFL-Apple Valley, won the DFL endorsement for governor. Walz went up against Murphy in the August DFL primary and won the party’s nomination for governor.

Walz’s running mate, Rep. Peggy Flanagan, DFL-St. Louis Park, has been a state representative since 2015. She graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2002. 

Luke Diamond, Tiffany Bui, Isabella Murray and Helen Sabrowsky contributed to this report.