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Benson runs for governor; Gazelka resigns as majority leader

Paul Gazelka
KARE

ST PAUL, MN-- Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka announced Wednesday that he plans to step down from his post, setting the table for what many anticipate will be run for governor of Minnesota in 2022. 

In a letter to members of the Senate Republican Caucus, Gazelka called his time as Senator Majority Leader "the most rewarding experience of my life" while hinting at his "next chapter" in politics.

For now, though, Gazelka will remain a senator in the Minnesota legislature. According to the Minnesota Secretary of State's Office, candidates for governor and other state offices can file their affidavit of candidacy from May 17, 2022 until May 31, 2022. 

Several other candidates are already seeking the Republican nomination for governor including Dr. Scott Jensen, a former state senator from Chaska, and Dr. Neil Shah of North Oaks.

Republican State Sen. Michelle Benson of Ham Lake will announce today that she’s running for governor, and State Sen. Carla Nelson of Rochester is also widely expected to join the race.

Republicans haven’t won a statewide governor's race in Minnesota since 2006, when then-governor Tim Pawlenty captured a second term. Currently both U.S. Senate seats and all of the state’s constitutional offices — governor, attorney general, secretary of state, and auditor — are held by Democrats.

During a July sit-down interview, Gazelka told KARE 11's Jana Shortal he was definitely thinking about a gubernatorial run and said it would come down to the answer to this question: Is it the right thing to do, and can he actually make a difference for Minnesotans? Gazelka said he believes he can, and said he believes state residents will be looking for a change from Gov. Tim Walz, citing both the governor's response to unrest following the murder of George Floyd and his handling of the COVID crisis.

You can read Gazelka's full resignation letter below:

"Members,

Five years ago, under bittersweet conditions, I was honored to be elected leader of the Senate Republican Caucus. I have those same bittersweet feelings today as I announce my intention to step aside as your leader.

Outside of my family life, and my faith in God, leading this caucus has been the most rewarding experience of my life. I am so grateful for what we’ve accomplished together:

  • Finding agreement on three consecutive budgets without raising taxes, over the strong objections of both Governors Mark Dayton and Tim Walz.
  • Cutting income tax rates for the first time in 20 years in addition to tax cuts for Social Security income and small business and agriculture property taxes.
  • Blocking an exhaustive list of policies pursued by the DFL that would have slowed the growth in our economy, taken away rights and freedoms and worst of all, harmed our families.
  • Growing the caucus from a razor-thin one vote majority in 2017 to a comfortable working majority through special election victories and by strategically attracting centrist Democrats to join our efforts.
  • Building a culture of respect in the organization – respect for members in both parties, staff, lobbyists and the public – solidifying our reputation as the “adults in the room.”
  • Raising and spending record amounts in the 2020 election, winning back-to-back Republican majorities in the Senate for the first time in history, even in the face of a strong Democratic wave.

These accomplishments were possible because we stuck to our principles and communicated directly with the people of Minnesota. Again, I’m so very grateful for the work we’ve accomplished together and believe the caucus is in a very strong position to be successful in the 2022 session and the subsequent election.

I plan to be a part of that future success but look forward to letting someone else take over serving as leader while I pursue the next chapter in my political life.

It has been an honor.

Sincerely,

Paul Gazelka

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