Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz and Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen shared a stage Wednesday during the first debate of the gubernatorial race.
The debate at Minnesota Farmfest lasted over an hour and highlighted disagreements between the two candidates on issues including the COVID-19 pandemic, crime and energy policy.
Walz touted the state's pandemic response and efforts to help address long-term care staffing shortages, indicating more could've been done if Republicans hadn't walked away from state budget negotiations.
He repeatedly chided Jensen, a skeptic of COVID-19 vaccine safety and critic of mitigation measures, for spreading "misinformation".
Jensen, on the other hand, referred to state lockdowns as "an abomination of government overreach" and stated many Minnesotans felt like "subjects under an Emperor."
“Did you notice that you could get a haircut during the second lockdown but not during the first?" he questioned. "Where was the science?”
On issues of vehicle emissions standards and biofuels, Jensen accused Walz of wanting Minnesota to become a "California-copycat" — a remark met with cheers from the audience.
Walz maintained Minnesota has only scratched the surface of the state's full potential in being a leader in biofuel production and innovation.
Many of Wednesday's questions related to the challenges facing greater Minnesota, such as population decline in rural areas.
In discussing how he'd address these issues, Jensen claimed Minnesota has a hostile attitude towards businesses and called to "get government out of the way."
"We have regulated, permitted, licensed, these various industries to death," he said.
Walz pointed to local government aid as a tool to help farming towns build the amenities needed to keep the community strong.
"It's about how do you solve the problem," he said. "That's what the job of governor is."
The full debate, shared by MPR News, can be found here.