By WCCO-TV Staff

MINNEAPOLIS (AP/WCCO) — Democratic Gov. Tim Walz has $4.1 million in the bank for his reelection campaign, while Dr. Scott Jensen and state Sen. Paul Gazelka are the money leaders among the candidates seeking Republican endorsement to unseat the governor, according to campaign finance reports released Friday.

The numbers are an early sign of which candidates are running strong and which ones can raise enough money to wage credible campaigns in the November election. That can translate into political support and more donations.

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The reports show Jensen — a former state senator from Chaska running as a COVID-19 skeptic — ended the first quarter with $774,393 in cash on hand as of March 31, after having raised $256,392 and spent $305,797 during the first three months of the year. He was the first major candidate to enter the race last year and has built up a nationwide following on social media. His running mate is former Minnesota Viking Matt Birk.

Gazelka — a former Minnesota Senate majority leader from East Gull Lake running on a law-and-order platform who has been endorsed by the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association — finished the reporting period with $406,190 in the bank after raising $99,358 and spending $172,857.

Minnesota Republicans hold their state convention May 13-14 in Rochester to endorse candidates for governor, attorney general and other statewide offices. The major GOP gubernatorial candidates have pledged to abide by the party’s endorsement, but none appears to have enough pledges from the 2,200 delegates to win the party’s backing on the first ballot.

Walz faces no significant opposition for the Democratic nomination as he seeks a second term. He raised $1 million in the first quarter but spent $510,071.

Among the other GOP gubernatorial candidates, Medina businessman and former congressional candidate Kendall Qualls — the only African American in the race, who has highlighted his rise from poverty to success — had $168,344 in cash on hand after raising $467,610. He spent $299,266 in an effort to make himself better known.

Former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek, of Maple Grove, who has touted his long career in law enforcement and state government, had $40,202 left after raising $149,053 in February and March, and spending $108,851.

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Michelle Benson — a state senator from Ham Lake who has emphasized her governing experience — had $38,076 left after raising $52,768 and spending $135,008. Dr. Neil Shah — a dermatologist from North Oaks — had $22,411 on hand after raising $75,401 and spending $79,898. Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy had $2,127 after raising $17,091 and spending $21,803.

Among third-party candidates, former WCCO Radio and KARE-TV personality Cory Hepola for the Forward Party had $25,094 banked after raising $31,295 and spending $6,201. Scientist and entrepreneur Hugh McTavish, of the Independence-Alliance Party, entered the race after the filing deadline and did not report.

Another closely watched race in Minnesota this year will be for attorney general, where Democratic incumbent Keith Ellison had $339,774 on hand after raising $145,848 and spending $51,175. Ellison and his office last year convicted former Minneapolis police Officer Derek Chauvin in the murder of George Floyd and ex-Brooklyn Center Officer Kim Potter in the Taser mix-up shooting death of Daunte Wright.

Ellison’s GOP opponent in 2018, Doug Wardlow, general counsel to MyPillow and an ally of its founder, Mike Lindell, a leading proponent of false accusations that the 2020 election was stolen from President Donald Trump, had $30,437 left after raising $121,049, and spending $115,803. Wardlow has lent his own campaign $17,500.

Former legislator Dennis Smith, who’s on probation after the Supreme Court suspended his law license for one month in a professional misconduct case, had $765,530 in the bank but that was mostly from $600,000 in loans from himself. He listed $154,508 in individual contributions and expenditures of $128,350.

Plymouth lawyer Jim Schultz, who’s endorsed by the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association, had $101,527, including $70,000 he loaned his own campaign last year, after raising $90,645 and spending $97,878.

Former Washington County judge, Hennepin county commissioner and legislator Tad Jude had $42,306 after raising $47,084, which included a $30,000 loan from himself. He has spent $4,778. Minneapolis attorney Lynne Torgerson, who has called the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrectionists “heroes,” had $2,127 after raising $4,040 and spending $4,931.

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