In their own words: how Jeff Johnson and Tim Walz characterize the 2018 governor’s race

Jeff Johnson, Tim Walz
MinnPost photo by Peter Callaghan
Gubernatorial candidates Jeff Johnson and Tim Walz chatting prior to Wednesday's debate.

They’ve both been campaigning for a year and a half, more than enough time to hone their campaign themes to fit neatly into a closing statement. And since the August primary, GOP nominee for governor Jeff Johnson and his DFL rival, Tim Walz, have heard each other often enough to be able to highlight the obvious contrasts between them.

On Wednesday, during their closing remarks at a forum sponsored by the TwinWest Chamber of Commerce in Wayzata, each of the candidates characterized the 2018 race; here’s how lawyer Johnson and geography teacher Walz made the case that they’re the best choice for voters in November.

Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson:

“Tim and I get along great. You can’t tell that. But we do have very, very diverse views about the future of Minnesota and the future of Minnesotans. I believe that Minnesotans and Minnesota businesses are overtaxed. And Tim Walz believes we are undertaxed. I believe that you should have more control over your health care and more choices and more options in your health insurance. And Tim has said we need to move to a single-payer system where everyone loses their insurance and we are all forced onto one government plan.

“I believe we should actually cooperate with the federal government when it comes to immigration — illegal immigration — enforcement and Tim believes we should become a sanctuary state, which is on the far fringe even of his own party. I believe we should have a work requirement for those who are able to work so if they’re on welfare they’re at least able to work part time or looking for work or getting training or even volunteering. Tim disagrees with that.

“And I believe that we as government need to be much more careful with other people’s money than we have been and Tim has made so many spending promises that no one is going to be able to afford to live here anymore if he actually keeps them. That is not the right direction for Minnesota. I will empower people. I will empower entrepreneurs. I will empower parents. Because that is what I think government should be doing. We should be moving in there to empower people rather than try to control or direct them as we have.

“We live in a great state. We live in the greatest state in the United States of America. If I didn’t believe that I would have moved somewhere else. But we can be even better and I do fear the road we’re on because we are losing people based upon the unaccountability of government the fact that we are so highly taxed.”

U.S. Rep. Tim Walz:

“You failed to tell them I’m going to take their puppies too. … I think this is what the country should expect — the poison politics. What we’ve seen and regardless of where your politics are at: name-calling, divisiveness, anger, all of that, it’s not going to solve problems. Fear too. I taught fourth grade; fear is a wonderful short-term motivator. But it does not change behavior. We are not a fearful people. We look to the future. We don’t fear the future, we create the future. This is a state that ranks at the top of so many measures. This is a state with a quality of life. And yes, you get what you pay for. I’m not interested in being Mississippi. I’m interested in being Minnesota.

“He talks about conversations with people. I’m a school teacher. I’m from a family where my father died of cancer and those bills piled up on my mom. I joined the Army to use the G.I. Bill because I do believe in hard work; I do believe that you should earn things. But I also realize like I saw in my family that sometimes you need a hand up, and that was Social Security survivor benefits.

“And what I did know was, I never was going to get into Harvard but I sure could get into a great state school and give me the skill set to live the life and achieve the dream I wanted to dream. That’s what Minnesota has been about. This is a place no matter who you are — black, white, brown, indigenous — you got an opportunity to succeed. This is a place that we believe it’s a fundamental need to get health care, and I simply reject the notion that the wonderful market is working so great that we spend twice as much as anybody else and get half for it. I don’t care what you call it, if it works better, more efficiently, keeps people healthy and keeps them moving forward, that’s what we should be striving for.

“But none of those things will happen unless we figure out our common vision, a ‘One Minnesota.’ With the wonderful diversity of ideas but with the capacity of a governor who has proven to bring people together. … that’s the choice that we get right now: a hopeful politics of the future that recognizes the differences, that lets people come to the table who are impacted by those decisions to help make those decisions so you’re not surprised. And then do it in a way that looks to the future. …”

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