ST. PAUL - Geography Teacher. National guardsman. Congressman. Now governor of Minnesota -- that’s Tim Walz.
The six-term Democratic congressman defeated Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson in convincing fashion after a campaign that shed light on deep divisions in the state. Johnson trailed in the polls leading up to Election Day, Nov. 6, but narrowed the gap in recent weeks.
Media outlets including the Minneapolis Star Tribune and WCCO called the race for Walz at about 10 p.m. Tuesday evening.
Walz and Johnson were not immediately available for comment.
Walz, a moderate Democrat representative for the largely rural 1st congressional district, championed a “One Minnesota” platform that emphasized bipartisanship and “joyful politics” as he liked to put it.
Walz was gracious in victory and praised his opponent in comments to the Pioneer Press.
“I want to be clear - Jeff Johnson loves this state dearly… It’s simply about putting forward different visions. We can bridge those gaps … for one Minnesota,” Walz said
Walz’s message of positive politics and unification resonated across the state despite deep divisions between the DFL and GOP, his campaign manager Carrie Lucking said during a phone interview Tuesday after the polls closed.
“We feel great and we have a lot to be proud of,” Lucking said. “Tim has run an entirely positive campaign through the endorsements, the primary and now the general election.”
On the campaign trail, Johnson, 51, wasn’t afraid to criticize policies that, in his terms, leave Minnesota most hostile to business -- evidenced, he iterated, by high taxes and stifling regulations on everything from entrepreneurial startups to day care providers to fishing limits, as well as poorly monitored social programs that are inefficient and sap taxpayer dollars.
In turn, Walz, 54, was quick to criticize Johnson’s rhetoric, which he sometimes considered cynical and, more so, uncompromising and counterintuitive to constructive dialogues across the aisle.
Being able to foster cooperation between the parties in the Minnesota Legislature -- which has experienced points of disfunction under Gov. Mark Dayton -- factored as a prominent topic in the race.