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Our View / Endorsement: DFLers have a leader in Walz

Tim Walz

If elections are about leadership, Tim Walz is the choice for DFLers in the Aug. 14 gubernatorial primary.

Walz led classrooms and teams for 20 years as a geography and government teacher and as a football and basketball coach, including at Mankato West Senior High School. He served in the Army National Guard for 24 years, retiring as a command sergeant major. And he has been a leader in Congress — and the highest-ranking enlisted soldier ever to serve in Congress — as representative of southern Minnesota's 1st District. He was first elected in 2007.

In a competitive and hotly contested DFL primary for Minnesota governor, Walz is the leader his party can back to advance to Election Day on Nov. 6.

"I've been able to govern by building broad and strong coalitions and by being able to bridge very difficult gaps, whether it is (between) agriculture and the environment or whether it's trying to figure out how to deliver health care," Walz said in a candidate-screening interview with the News Tribune Editorial Board.

"I'm not Pollyannish. I taught fourth grade for a lot of years, so I'm a realist," he further stated. "I supervised the lunchroom and served in the military and ran small business. But what I believe is that the things that bind us together are far greater than what divides us. I believe there's a capacity, with leadership, to lay out a goal ... (with) many points of view brought into a solution."

With DFL-Republican headbutting leading to unproductive and chaotic legislative sessions of late, Minnesotans can welcome a governor with the ability to effectively bring together different points of view and to build coalitions and bridges. Walz actually has been criticized by members of his own party for compromising too much.

Those of us in nonmetro Minnesota additionally can appreciate Walz's nonmetro perspective.

He supports copper-nickel mining on the Iron Range — but mining isn't enough, he said. Minnesota also should be refining and building products from the minerals.

"We set these false choices. It's what politics does to us, and it's getting worse, where you feel like you have to be on one side or the other. It is possible to be clearly concerned about climate change and water quality and to also think that Minnesota might be able to do farming and copper-nickel mining. I think those things can intersect," Walz said.

He's a believer in the environmental-review and permitting processes — without opponents or proponents of copper-nickel mining being allowed to pervert the processes in their favor.

It's no surprise that Walz, the former teacher, sees education as key to Minnesota's future. Right now, he said, Minnesota is failing its communities of color. The achievement gap in our state is only widening, he said, and it's to our peril.

"Keep in mind 70 percent of the population growth, thus the workforce, over the next 25 years in this state will come from communities of color," he said. "We are failing the economic engine of the state."

Elections are about leadership, of course. So DFL voters had to be disappointed with the lack of decisive leadership in the response of gubernatorial candidate Lori Swanson to the news last month that her running mate, U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan, rehired a staffer despite credible accusations of sexual harassment against him. Swanson's silence and then her eventual suggestion that the accusations were politically motivated harmed her chances on Aug. 14. Swanson, of Eagan, is currently Minnesota's attorney general.

Others running as DFLers for governor are general contractor and Realtor Tim Holden of St. Paul; Rep. Erin Murphy, the former Minnesota House majority leader and former executive director of the Minnesota Nurses Association; and Ole Savior of Minneapolis, a frequent candidate who said northern Minnesota can be even bigger for tourism as the next Disneyland and as a Santa's workshop.

Walz's running mate for lieutenant governor is Rep. Peggy Flanagan of the White Earth Band of Ojibwe and a resident of St. Louis Park in suburban Minneapolis. In the Legislature, she has a reputation for advocating for children and families.

Together, Walz and Flanagan give the DFL its best shot at holding on to the executive branch this fall.


This endorsement editorial was determined entirely by the Duluth News Tribune Editorial Board. The members of the board are Publisher Neal Ronquist, Editorial Page Editor Chuck Frederick, employee representative Kris Vereecken and citizen representative Julene Boe.