At the start of the COVID-19 epidemic in March 2020, Governor Tim Walz ordered Minnesotans to stay at home, but George Floyd was killed by police just 62 days later. Following the uprising, a Minneapolis police station was set on fire.
Walz imposed a statewide mask requirement for indoor venues in July 2020. Then, in November 2020, Walz once more ordered the closure of restaurants and other public meeting places as cases increased and hospitals begged for assistance.
Daunte Wright was slain by a police officer a few months later, while Derek Chauvin, the man who killed Floyd, was being tried. This time, the Brooklyn Center police headquarters were fiercely protected by a multi-jurisdictional police team. Omicron showed up a few months later.
Crisis has dominated Walz’s term as governor, and his reelection campaign has necessitated a steady stream of justifications for why he handled a particular disaster in the way that he did and what may have gone better.
Walz, who was mostly reactive during his first term, now thinks that additional four years in government will enable him to reenergize his agenda.
Walz told the Reformer, “You don’t run for governor just whining about things that happened. “I believe we’ve established the standard for the future in terms of innovation and the economy… and I believe that’s the leadership Minnesota wants.”
Still, Minnesotans must answer the age-old question when it comes to Walz: Are you better off now than you were four years ago? It hasn’t been a typical four years because of the enormous asterisk that the majority of people realize.
Walz contends that thanks to his leadership, Minnesota is still in a stronger position than most other states in terms of COVID-19, the economy, education, and crime. Voters will now have to pick whether to support Walz or elect Chaska physician and former state senator Scott Jensen if they agree.
The limitations put in place by Walz’s government to stop the spread of COVID-19 were the ones that caused the greatest controversy: canceling major indoor events, shutting schools, momentarily closing restaurants and bars, and requiring masks.
Some Minnesotans were misled into thinking the virus wasn’t severe and that mitigation strategies wouldn’t work by a surge of false information, including that spread by his opponent Jensen.
Walz claims that his caution was justified in retrospect.
“I believe that these are unusual occurrences… And when it comes to COVID fatalities, we are pretty close to the bottom,” Walz told the Reformer.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Walz is accurate that Minnesota’s COVID-19 mortality rate per 100,000 has consistently been lower than that of the majority of states during the epidemic. Minnesota received a satisfactory score for its pandemic response according to several evaluations.
But Jensen keeps going after Walz on this issue.
According to Jensen’s website, “We can never again accept the power grab Tim Walz inflicted upon Minnesota.”
Jensen has identified a new cause for the virus’s death toll that is not backed by experts: an over reliance on ventilators that were originally thought to be required to keep COVID patients alive.
However, the COVID-19 limits that kept many Minnesotans safe came at a price.
Students in Minnesota had academic setbacks during the epidemic, along with negative effects on their social and emotional wellbeing.
While inheriting Minnesota’s substantial inequalities between the state’s white kids and pupils of color, Walz ran for office in 2018 on a platform of increased education funding—an issue some activists claim Walz hasn’t emphasized.
According to Josh Crosson, executive director of EdAllies, a Minnesota advocacy organization specializing on racial inequalities, the Walz administration appears to lack urgency in addressing these years of racial inequities that have been made worse by the epidemic.
Crosson added, “We need the governor to show a stronger sense of urgency here, and I don’t know if additional money will be enough. Because we haven’t seen results from our existing system that demonstrate that we are meaningfully addressing gaps, we are aware that it isn’t fulfilling the needs of children.
Jensen has argued in favor of school vouchers, a Minnesota “parents’ bill of rights,” and reduced funding for education.
Walz boasts that his compromise budgets provide schools additional funding to help pupils catch up. He holds Republicans accountable for scuttling a plan that would have lessened the growing economic burden of districts’ escalating special education spending at the conclusion of the 2022 legislative session.
According to Louis Johnston, an economics professor at the College of St. Benedict and St. John’s University, Walz inherited a stable state economy from DFL Gov. Mark Dayton that had been functioning in line with comparable states for years.
Regarding the economy under Walz, Johnston stated, “I believe continuity would be the term.” In a way, “Governor Walz has strengthened and extended the policies that were adopted by Governor Dayton.”
These regulations represent the idea that robust systems for education, health care, transportation, and social services lay the groundwork for economic development by generating wholesome, highly qualified individuals who subsequently support the success of the state’s businesses.
Jensen has often criticized Walz for what he perceives to be a weak state economy. He has criticized Walz for inflation, despite the fact that it is a national, and more lately, a worldwide, problem unrelated to governors’ decisions. Jensen wants to do rid of the personal income tax in Minnesota because he thinks it would stimulate the economy. According to economists, it will favor the affluent at the expense of significant reductions in expenditure on healthcare and education as well as potential rises in other regressive taxes like sales and property taxes.
The numbers demonstrate that Minnesota’s economy has done well despite the epidemic, with high labor force participation rates and, briefly, the lowest unemployment rate ever registered by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In order to draw attention to the problem of public safety, Jensen has criticized Walz for the rise in violent crime. In reference to the events after Floyd’s death, Jensen has gone so far as to label Walz the “godfather” of the rise in crime across the country.
Certainly, the crime rate increased in Minnesota, but it did so nationwide, in both states with Republican and Democratic governors. Researchers believe there are many complex factors contributing to the rise in crime, but some of them include pandemic-related disturbances to daily living and damaged community-police relations following many high-profile police killings in 2020, including Floyd’s murder.
Walz has poured an abundance of state enforcement resources into Minneapolis, which has seen both an increase in shootings and a significant decrease in cops. According to his administration, this has recently seen a decrease in killings and shootings.
Walz also mentions an agreement he made with Republicans to increase public safety funding by $450 million statewide, only to have it abandoned in the last days of the legislative session.