Walz, Jensen hold first televised debate

The debate touched on abortion, gas prices and public safety.


This is Jensen and Walz’s first debate since August. The two will hold one more radio debate on Oct. 28 before November’s election. Photos courtesy of the Walz and Jensen campaigns.

by Alex Steil

Governor Tim Walz (DFL) and physician Scott Jensen (R) held their first televised debate for Minnesota’s governor race on Tuesday. Abortion, the environment and public safety were all topics of discussion in the nearly hour-long debate hosted by KTTC-TV in Rochester.

While the debate was the first televised, Walz and Jensen’s  first debate was in August. There is another radio debate on Oct. 28. Jensen has criticized Walz for not attending more debates, which has not kept pace with Walz’s first race for governor.


Abortion was one of the first topics discussed. After the June U.S. Supreme Court ruling, which overturned Roe v. Wade, Minnesota became a sanctuary state in the midwest as abortion is constitutionally protected under the state court case Doe v. Gomez.

Jensen said abortion is not on the ballot and no governor has the power to overturn abortion rights in Minnesota. He talked about his plans to advance reproductive health care like over-the-counter birth control. He also discussed harsher penalties for crimes like rape.

Walz argued back, saying abortion is on the ballot this cycle. Since Doe is only precedent, the state Supreme Court could overturn the case with conservative justices appointed by Jensen, Walz said. 

“Fool us once, it’s not going to happen in Minnesota,” Walz said.

The governor can only appoint justices if there is a vacancy. Otherwise, the office is elected.

Gas prices

When asked about how to respond to rising gas prices, the candidates had varied answers. Walz pointed to a recent trend by car makers to use electric vehicles by 2035 and highlighted his steps as governor to attract energy businesses and aid farmers’ ethanol sales.

Jensen countered, falsely claiming Walz is banning non-electric vehicles and “forcing Minnesotans to buy electric vehicles they don’t want.” 

The truth is nuanced: Minnesota has often followed California’s lead on environmental restrictions, which recently announced all electric vehicles by 2035. The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, which recently announced it would phase out all electric vehicles by 2035, has not made any rule public.

Environment and Mining

Moderators asked about the Twin Metals mining near the Boundary Waters, and Jensen was clear about what his administration’s role would be: “We should get government out of the way…We should let miners mine.”

Walz argued the state can regulate certain economic areas, such as “agriculture, medical devices and mining, if we can do so safely and smartly.” He said any mining projects would depend on the outcome of environmental impact statements. 

2020 riots

One of the more heated moments of the debate occurred when the duo talked about the 2020 riots after the police murder of George Floyd. Walz said he was proud of the first responders during the riots and noted his coordination with local police departments through the Secretary of Defense.

“We built the plane while it was flying,” Walz said.

Jensen was critical of Walz’s rhetoric surrounding public safety more broadly and noted his endorsement from the Police Officers Association. He said Walz “repeatedly denigrated the National Guard” during the riots. 


The final question asked both candidates to judge race relations in the state and if more could be done.

Jensen denounced the “hyper-accentuation of skin color.” He then went on to talk about race education in schools, calling it corrupted to teach about the “artificial parameter[s] as to what acceptable diversity or inclusion or equity is.”

Walz touted his work to appoint state officials that look like Minnesotans, noting Lt. Gov. Peggy Flannagan is the first Indigenous person to hold executive office in Minnesota.

“We’re going to continue to diversify,” Walz said. “We’re going to have to put policies in place that make students of color have someone look that think like, look like, seem like. George Floyd sparked that conversation.”