By Caroline Cummings

ST. PAUL (WCCO) – DFL incumbent Gov. Tim Walz has a significant fundraising advantage over the several Republicans vying to unseat him in November, new state campaign finance reports released Friday show, raising more than $1 million in the first few months of this year with more than $4 million cash on hand.

Among the GOP candidates in the first quarter of this year, late entrant Kendall Qualls, a former health care executive and U.S. Army veteran, raised $467,000; Former state senator Dr. Scott Jensen raised $256,000 and former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, who also announced his candidacy this year, raised $149,000.

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Jensen leads the pack of Republicans in total fundraising—exceeding $1.49 million since he entered the race—followed by former Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka who has raised more $645,000. So far this year, Gazelka raised $99,000, according to his most recent filing.

Dr. Neil Shah raised $75,000 from January 1 through March 31 and GOP Sen. Michelle Benson raised $52,000.

As the election nears, money is essential for running ads and building out effective campaigns, said Larry Jacobs, politics professor at the University of Minnesota. Significant fundraising can signal support and candidate viability. Republicans will endorse a candidate at the state party convention in mid-May.

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“Money talks,” he said. “If you’ve got cash – you can be an effective candidate. It doesn’t guarantee that you’re going to win, but you’ll be in the fight.”

Republicans challenging Gov. Tim Walz in November are hoping to break a losing streak for GOP candidates in statewide office since 2006, when Gov. Tim Pawlenty narrowly won re-election.

The nonpartisan Cook Political Report ranks Minnesota as “likely” electing a Democrat for governor and Walz has a large fundraising advantage, but Republicans still hope to occupy the governor’s mansion once again, as President Joe Biden’s low approval ratings and record inflation bog down Democrats this year.

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Former WCCO Radio host Cory Hepola, who is running as independent, raised $31,000 so far this year.

Caroline Cummings