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Republicans take to the air, DFLers play the ground game in late-season pitch for votes

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DFLers worked their election ground game in the Twin Cities with an appeal to abortion rights supporters Saturday, while Republicans went airborne with gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen delivering his “Heal Minnesota” message at stops from Hibbing to Rochester.

Candidates from both parties worked their geographic and ideological power zones, playing up core issues to their most faithful voters as the campaign season neared its end. Republicans are more popular in greater Minnesota while DFLers dominate in the Twin Cities, so while Jensen was on his multicity tour, Gov. Tim Walz was rallying voters in Minneapolis and St. Paul.

Walz stopped by the “Rise for Roe” event in the parking lot of the former Sears adjacent to the State Capitol, saying that “abortion services are health care, plain and simple” and that it was “terrifying to think” about how much hinges on this election.

“Once you lose a right, it is so hard to get back,” Walz said.

Meanwhile Saturday, at a hangar at Rochester International Airport, Jensen told a group of about 50 supporters: “We don’t get to stand on the sidelines this time around.”

As he has throughout the campaign, Jensen, who didn’t serve in the armed forces, criticized Walz’s retirement from the Minnesota National Guard after 24 years of service, just before his unit went to Iraq. “Minnesota doesn’t deserve quitters,” he said to applause.

At an earlier stop at St. Cloud Regional Airport, Jensen and running mate Matt Birk appeared before about 200 supporters. Some carried “Walz Failed” signs or Trump-style “Make America Great Again” caps.

Roger Zeman, 73, of Big Lake, said it’s time for a “fresh start.” He said he’s not a fan of how Walz handled the Feeding our Future pandemic fraud investigation or the riots in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder at the hands of Minneapolis police.

“Nothing sticks to him,” Zeman said of Walz. “He’s always pointing the finger at someone else. Everyone makes mistakes, but if you make a mistake, own it.”

GOP volunteer Nathan Hagemeier, of St. Cloud, said his biggest concern is rising crime. “You don’t have to be a Democrat or Republican to know that we need a change,” the 24-year-old said.

Jensen said that he and Birk plan to take to the air again for a series of stops Tuesday.

Back in St. Paul, Democratic U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum was the first speaker at the “Rise for Roe” event. She is seeking reelection to the Fourth Congressional District seat she has held since 2001.

“This election is really important to me because I’m fighting my grandmothers’ battles,” McCollum said, telling the dozens who were there early to have “thoughtful conversations” with friends about what’s at stake. “It’s up to us. Each and every one of us.”

Tara Erickson, a lobbyist and organizer of the afternoon event, said the gathering doubled as a fundraiser with a voluntary donation at the door. Erickson said she’d raised $5,000 with the first 50 attendees.

Erickson said many rights are at stake. “I don’t think they’re going to stop at reproductive freedom; they’re going to go for contraception,” she said.

Elizabeth Slagle, a St. Paul-based obstetrician and gynecologist, said “abortion absolutely is on the ballot” and access can be taken away in Minnesota. “It happened at the federal level. It can happen in the state,” she said.

Kimberly Gottschalk of St. Paul brought her 10-year-old daughter to help out at the St. Paul event. “These midterms are more important than ever,” Gottschalk said, adding that she is supporting Walz for reelection. “Women have a lot on the line, as do a lot of other people.”

The event also included appearances by U.S. Sens. Tina Smith and Amy Klobuchar, as well as performances by comedian Mary Mack and singer-songwriter Chastity Brown.

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