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'We're Netflix, we're disrupting': Cory Hepola launches gubernatorial bid under Andrew Yang's Forward Party

The former radio host's announcement spurred calls from DFL leaders that the bid would act as a 'spoiler' that could help Republican candidates in the race.

Cory Hepola - gubernatorial announcement
Former WCCO Radio host and KARE 11 anchor Cory Hepola on Wednesday, March 2, 2022, speaks to reporters at the Minnesota Capitol about his independent bid for governor.
Dana Ferguson / Forum News Service

ST. PAUL — Former WCCO Radio host Cory Hepola on Wednesday, March 2, laid out his third-party bid for governor and said his bid would offer Minnesotans fed up with major-party candidates an alternative.

On Tuesday evening, Hepola launched his campaign with a Twitter announcement and a promotional video. But his early campaign materials provided few details about his platform as a candidate or priorities. Hepola said he would run for the endorsement of the Forward Party of Minnesota, which seeks to appeal to "the logical, reasonable, solutions-oriented voter," according to the party's website.

"This is a call. We hear you, Minnesota. You're tired, you're frustrated, you're exhausted," Hepola said. "This broken, toxic two-party system that is pushing forward negative, hateful, not only speech but inactivity. There's no collaboration. There's no compromise. We deserve better Minnesota. And that's what we're going to give."

Former Democratic presidential candidate and New York City mayoral hopeful Andrew Yang launched the broader Forward Party last year with the goal of bringing Democrats and Republicans together. Hepola and his supporters said they hoped to be the building block for Yang's political party and had started a political committee that could grow into a new political party in the state after they held a convention, elected a chair and ran candidates in the 2022 election. The former radio host said the Forward Party would adopt positions from Democrats and Republicans and prioritize collaboration and compromise.

"The two major toxic parties are cable big business, big machines," he said. "We're Netflix, we're disrupting. The moment has never been better."

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A native of Perham, Minnesota, Hepola joined WCCO Radio in 2019 after working as a morning and weekend anchor at KARE 11. He stepped down from the role last month as he mulled a run for governor. He graduated from Concordia College and he and his wife have three children.

During his 24-minute news conference, Hepola gave a bare-bones description of his campaign priorities including bringing "bold, innovative and thoughtful" policy solutions on education, public health and economic opportunity. And he said his appeal to both Democrats and Republicans in the state who were sick of the two-party partisan structure.

Hepola said he hoped to "modernize" education in the state, said there should be a sharper focus on the opioid epidemic in the state and its impacts, lauded Gov. Tim Walz's early response to the COVID-19 pandemic but said he used his emergency powers for too long and said the state needed "tax reform" and a climate that was friendlier to small business owners. He also said he supported access to abortion and supported public safety measures that supported law enforcement and also built relationships with community members.

When asked about his voting history, Hepola said he supported Walz in 2018 and President Joe Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

The announcement spurred questions about how Hepola's bid could help or hurt the chances of other candidates. And Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Chair Ken Martin ahead of the news conference on Wednesday called Hepola a "celebrity vanity candidate" that could pull votes from the DFL candidate.

"The current field of Republican candidates for governor is the most extreme that Minnesota has seen in decades, making Hepola's spoiler campaign even more irresponsible,” Martin said. “A vote for Cory Hepola is a vote to help the GOP cut taxes for the rich, defund public schools, and force their anti-choice agenda on Minnesotans.” 

MORE FROM DANA FERGUSON:
Several incumbent state legislators, particularly in the Senate, edged out competitors with more extreme views on COVID-19, election security and more.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter  @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email  dferguson@forumcomm.com.

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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