Minnesota’s Tim Walz Close to Decision on Gubernatorial Run

He could leave open a top target for Republicans in 2018

Minnesota Rep. Tim Walz, seen here campaigning for fellow DFL Rep. Rick Nolan last fall, will likely decide about a gubernatorial bid within the next week. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)

Minnesota Rep. Tim Walz is close to making a decision about running for governor in 2018, which would leave open a congressional seat Democrats barely won in 2016. 

“I am interested in doing it, I feel very strongly about it, am passionate about Minnesota. I believe the issues that are coming up are going to be fought at the state level, and so I expect to make a decision in the very, very near future,” Walz told Roll Call on Monday night outside the House chamber. 

When pressed about whether “near future” meant within a week, Walz said, “I think so.” His goal has been to make a decision by April. Lt. Gov. Tina Smith recently announced she wouldn’t seek the Democratic-Farmer-Labor nomination for governor, turning the attention on Walz.

National Republicans didn’t target Walz in 2016, but he ended up squeaking by GOP businessman Jim Hagedorn, who has already announced he’ll be running for a third time in 2018. In 2014, Walz defeated Hagedorn by 9 points. 

President Donald Trump boosted down-ballot Republicans in Minnesota’s more rural districts last fall. He carried Walz’s district by 15 points after President Barack Obama narrowly carried it in 2012 and 2008.

Walz, who was first elected in 2006, is confident the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party can hold the 1st District without him running for re-election.

“It certainly swung pretty hard to Donald Trump but I think that’s more of a frustration, wanting change. I think now, from my town halls and the input we’re getting in our office, [they are] pretty disillusioned with what actually that means now,” Walz said.

Democrats need to gain 24 seats in the House next year to win the majority, so they can’t afford to lose any of the seats they currently control. 

Walz said he hasn’t yet spoken to anyone interested in running for his seat but believes the party will have a “deep bench” to draw on.

“I think we’ll have good folks making a good case down there. Pretty pragmatic folks,” he said. 

“I think the conventional wisdom always was a seat like that you should transition in a presidential year,” Walz said. “I think this last election turned that on its head and it seems to me like this would probably be the one.” 

But for Republicans, last fall’s election, in which Walz won by less than a point, suggests that his district may be ripe for the picking next year, especially if he’s not there to defend it. The National Republican Congressional Committee put the 1st District on its initial list of 36 targeted seats for 2018.

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