Community asks for more gubernatorial debates

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(ABC 6 News) – The most recent Minnesota Gubernatorial debate was held in Rochester. It was one of only three scheduled debates, and the only one to be televised.

Governor Tim Walz has come under scrutiny for limiting the number of debates he is participating in ahead of the election.

While this move leaves some feeling confused, political analysts say it is part of a strategy.

Besides Tuesday in Rochester, the only other time Walz and challenger Dr. Scott Jensen debated was at Farmfest in August. 

This will also be the first time in 40 years Minnesota governor candidates do not have a scheduled prime-time Twin Cities debate, according to our sister station in the metro, KSTP-TV.

Political Analyst and Century High School teacher Shane Baker says the number of debates and accessibility of candidates can change from election to election. He says an incumbent will want to run on their previous history in office. 

Walz may be trying to distance himself from Jensen as someone with actual on-the-job experience.

“Really a debate, or that face-to-face situation, can really only hurt you and can really only help the challenger. The incumbent, regardless of party, it’s a common campaign strategy to just be unavailable for a lot of these events,” Baker explains.

Baker says Jensen is pushing for debates because it places him on a level playing field with Walz and helps with name recognition.

Local voters say more debates would not necessarily change their vote. However, they still wish they could learn more about the candidates.

“I want to know where the hotspots are that I might put my support behind. I’m not a super committed ‘one way or the other voter,” said Lindy Purdy, a Minnesota voter.

Baker says while the debate likely will not change minds, the candidates did a good job solidifying their platforms.

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“I thought it was a good interchange of ideas and I thought we were able to show a bit of a contrast between Tim Walz and Scott Jensen,” Jensen said in an after-debate press conference.

“I think it was a great opportunity to really see this difference, and then let Minnesotans make up their minds,” Walz said.

The last scheduled governors’ debate as of now will be on Friday, 

October 28 on Minnesota Public Radio, approximately two weeks ahead of Election Day, November 8.