Physician and former Republican legislator Scott Jensen is jumping into the race for governor in 2022, only the second candidate to announce a run against DFL Gov. Tim Walz.
Jensen, who retired in January after one term in the state Senate, gained national prominence early last year after questioning federal guidelines around reporting COVID-19 deaths in interviews with Fox News and other outlets. Since leaving the Senate, he's continued to be critical of the state's response to the pandemic, posting a series of online videos that characterized Walz as in an "abusive relationship" with Minnesotans.
"Over the past year, Scott has gained national attention for his criticism of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) guidelines on the classification of coronavirus deaths due to inflated numbers," reads a release announcing his campaign for governor. "He has been and will continue to search for truth and expose the facts surrounding COVID-19 and the measures Gov. Walz has implemented."
Jensen announced his campaign for governor in a news release embargoed for next week, but the Star Tribune did not agree to the embargo. His campaign said he will not be commenting at this time.
Walz, a former congressman who is serving his first term as governor, is expected to seek a second term but has not formally announced his campaign.
Democrats quickly criticized Jensen's bid for the governor's office on Tuesday, citing his comments about COVID-19 death certificates last year, which went viral across the globe and fueled right-wing conspiracy theories about inflated death counts.
"Scott Jensen is a dangerous COVID-19 conspiracy theorist who has been caught spreading lies about the pandemic, palling around with anti-vaccine extremists, and downplaying the virus that has taken over half a million American lives," DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin said in a statement. "The last thing Minnesotans need is someone like failed one-term state senator Jensen anywhere near the governor's residence, especially during times of crisis."
Before joining the state Senate, Jensen served two terms on the Waconia school board and has worked as a family physician for two decades at the Chaska clinic he founded. In the Senate, he was best known for his work on a deal to set up an emergency insulin program for those who can't afford it, as well as signing his name to a DFL bill to legalize cannabis for adults, though he later wavered in support and said he did it to spark more conversation on the proposal.
Mike Murphy, the Republican mayor of the north metro town of Lexington, is the only other candidate who has announced a run for governor in 2022.
Several Republicans have expressed interest or are rumored to be considering a run for governor, including MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka and Eighth District U.S. Rep. Pete Stauber.
Staff writer Stephen Montemayor contributed to this report.