Former WCCO host Cory Hepola rolled out his governor campaign in March heralding himself and the newly formed Forward Party of Minnesota as an alternative for voters frustrated by polarization.
On Tuesday — just four months later — he quietly ended his campaign with a statement posted to Twitter.
"We need a strong 3rd party in Minnesota to represent the majority in the middle," Hepola tweeted. "Unfortunately, right now, that doesn't exist, and the polarization driven by the Democratic and Republican parties make it unlikely that 2022 will be the breakthrough year."
Hepola's statement said his campaign had been out collecting signatures from voters in the days leading up to Tuesday's filing deadline to run for office, but it's unclear whether he gathered the 2,000 signatures required to get on the ballot.
Third-party candidates not running under one of Minnesota's four major political parties must garner enough signatures in order to file as a candidate. When asked if he'd gathered the required signatures, Hepola responded through a spokesperson that the campaign was "on pace to reach 2,200 but we had ongoing discussions on the viability of our campaign."
"I'm thinking big picture. I want to set up a third party to be competitive and successful for a long time," he added. "We all deserve that. Rushing it out when it's not quite ready could do more damage to the brand. This was my decision."
Hepola's departure from the race marks the end of a push this cycle from former presidential candidate Andrew Yang to gain a foothold in Minnesota for his new Forward Party. Minnesota was the first state with its own chapter of the party and candidate for office, which Yang hoped would be the building blocks of a broader movement.
As of the filing deadline, no other candidates filed to run for state or federal office under the Forward Party.
Minnesota has a history with third-party candidates, electing former pro wrestler and Independence Gov. Jesse Ventura in 1998, and candidates from the party managed to pull in double-digit vote percentages in the 2002 and 2010 governor races.
But Hepola's bid for governor struggled from the start, facing backlash for his ill-defined policy positions in his campaign rollout. His videos posted to social media got little attention or engagement, and he was unable to raise significant funds to support his bid.
State Democrats attacked him as a potential spoiler who could hand the race to a Republican, noting that several recent gubernatorial elections in the state were decided by a narrow margin. Gov. Tim Walz is facing national headwinds for Democrats this fall in his bid for a second term.