MINNEAPOLIS (AP) – U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, a Democrat who narrowly won a fifth term, said Monday that he is running for governor in his home state of Minnesota rather than trying to keep his seat in Congress.
Walz joins a field of several Democrats hoping to replace fellow Democrat Gov. Mark Dayton, who is retiring. His decision also creates an open seat in his Republican-leaning district, which runs along Minnesota’s southern border. Walz defeated Republican Jim Hagedorn by less than a percentage point in a district where Republican Donald Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton by 15 points.
A spokesman for Walz’ gubernatorial campaign confirmed his decision, which Walz announced earlier Monday in an interview with the Post-Bulletin of Rochester. Walz told the newspaper he believes he has shown during his years in Congress that he is willing to work across the aisle to get things done. Walz also launched a website for his gubernatorial bid.
Walz, the top Democrat on the Veterans Affairs Committee, first won election in 2006, defeating GOP incumbent Gil Gutknecht. Before running for Congress, he was a geography teacher and football coach at Mankato West High School. He retired from the Army National Guard as a command sergeant major in 2005.
The list of Democrats officially running for governor also includes St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, state Rep. Erin Murphy and State Auditor Rebecca Otto. U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan has also expressed interest.
No major Republicans have formally entered the race, though House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek are considering it.
Hagedorn didn’t stop running after his better-than-expected showing in November. The National Republican Congressional Committee last month included Walz on its initial list of 36 targets for the 2018 election cycle. The committee is also targeting Nolan.
“Tim Walz clearly realizes that it would be easier to run for Governor than to defend the failed liberal policies of Nancy Pelosi,” NRCC spokeswoman Maddie Anderson said in a statement. “We fully expect this seat to be a top pick-up opportunity for Republicans in 2018.”
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