(Headline USA) Dr. Scott Jensen won the Minnesota GOP’s endorsement after a wild ride on Saturday to challenge Democratic Gov. Tim Walz in the November election, going over the top on the ninth ballot with 65% of the vote.
Jensen, a former state senator who led on the first two ballots, regained the lead on the seventh ballot with 59%, just below the 60% needed to claim the endorsement, once Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy backed him after being eliminated on the sixth ballot.
“Game over,” Jensen told the delegates, accompanied by his running mate, former Minnesota Viking and Baltimore Raven Matt Birk, who used repeated football metaphors to fire up their supporters.
Jensen’s comeback ended a surge by business executive Kendall Qualls, who fell to 33% on the final ballot after taking the lead on the fourth ballot. But Jensen hit a bump in the road when Qualls, who was trying to become the Minnesota GOP’s first Black gubernatorial endorsee, told the delegates that Murphy falsely claimed that Qualls had offered to make Murphy his running mate, then took back the offer.
The claim angered some Qualls delegates and forced two extra ballots. And Qualls conspicuously did not appear on stage with Jensen for the traditional show of party unity, ending the convention on a note of discord.
However, Qualls and most other candidates pledged to honor the party’s endorsement and forego the right to run in the Aug. 9 GOP primary, and State Chairman David Hann told reporters he did not expect Jensen to face a serious challenge. Former President Donald Trump, still a potent force within the party, has not endorsed anyone in the Minnesota races.
Jensen, who came into the convention as the presumptive front-runner, acknowledged that he got nervous when he fell behind for four ballots in a row.
“But what made me even more nervous was that I didn’t have a clue what was going to happen next,” Jensen said. “And, you know, as physician the last thing you want is to be in a position where you don’t have control of the situation. So it was a wild ride. I wouldn’t make any bones about it.”
Jensen, a family physician from Chaska, got the earliest start in the race and raised the most money. He built a national following by discussing the COVID-19 vaccine, his opposition to mask mandates and school and business closures as support for medical freedom.
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press.