Tim Walz and Jeff Johnson faced off for the final time Friday night, just days before Minnesotans decide who will be their next governor.
Johnson, a Republican who serves as a Hennepin County commissioner, sharply attacked Walz on taxes, health care and on whether Walz has been consistent in his positions during the more than yearlong campaign.
“I know its easy to spend other people’s money,” Johnson said about Walz’s promise to increase spending on education, transportation and health care. “But somebody’s gotta pay for it.”
Walz, a Democrat who has represented southern Minnesota in Congress since 2006, tried to sow doubts about Johnson’s experience and skills.
“There’s no capacity or history of building coalitions,” he said of Johnson.
Minnesotans will choose one of the two to replace DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, who is retiring after two terms.
The debate that aired on TPT’s “Almanac” also featured lightning rounds that shed light on some offbeat issues:
Both said they favor allowing grocery stores to sell wine.
Both said they favor allowing Minnesotans to buy fireworks.
Both said they favor allowing Minnesotans to bet on sports.
Both said, surprisingly, that their first car was a Chevy Camaro — Walz’s a 1973 model, Johnson’s a 1978.
Walz said he would sign a bill forcing drivers to use a hands-free device while talking on the phone. Johnson said he probably would not.
But the debate was mostly a summation of the sharp differences between the candidates, apparent since they each won their primary elections in August.
Johnson was at times visibly frustrated with what he said was Walz’s evasions and shifting positions.
He said his campaign has been based on substantive arguments, “as opposed to just saying we just have to bring people together,” referring to Walz’s frequent promise to solve problems by building coalitions.
The two candidates continued long-running debates on health care and immigration.
Johnson assailed Walz on immigration, saying Walz’s preference to leave immigration enforcement to the federal government would turn Minnesota into a haven for undocumented immigrants. “We would become a magnet” for illegal immigration, Johnson said.
Walz said involving state and local law enforcement in immigration enforcement would create fear in many communities and prevent them from working with law enforcement when they are victims or witnesses of crimes.
Walz castigated what he called “fearmongering” by Republicans about immigration in the final week of the campaign, referring to recent statements by President Donald Trump about a caravan of migrants traveling to the United States to seek asylum.
Johnson said he had been the victim of a different kind of fearmongering, attacking a TV ad about him that claims his health care plan would take coverage from people. The Alliance for a Better Minnesota, a Democratic-leaning group working independently of the Walz campaign, has spent more than $4 million on ads.
Johnson sought to get Walz to denounce the ad.
Walz, who said he hadn’t seen it, responded: “Here’s my pro tip, Jeff. I don’t watch TV during the last 10 days.”