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McFeely: With Jensen as their choice for governor, MN Republicans lurch further into looniness

Among other extreme stances, far-right candidate calls for imprisonment of political opponent

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Minnesota Republican gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen speaks at a rally held in Fergus Falls on Monday, Oct. 25.
David Olson / The Forum
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MOORHEAD — The good news for Minnesota Republicans, one supposes, is that at least the loony Pillow Man didn't run for governor and get the party's endorsement. Mike Lindell is nutty enough to want to jail political opponents.

Oh, wait. The party's nominee to take on DFLer Tim Walz wants to do that, too.

Scott Jensen, a family doctor from Chaska who solidified his Republican bona fides by being a COVID skeptic (it's killed more than 1 million Americans) and questioning the safety of vaccines (they've been proven safe and effective), is the GOP choice to try to win the governor's mansion this fall.

Activists chose Jensen at the party's convention last weekend, going for hours as the surviving candidates raced further and further to the right to win delegates. No word if the candidates were sporting tinfoil hats by the end of the night.

Jensen eventually prevailed, with anti-abortion extremist and former Minnesota Vikings player Matt Birk as his running mate for lieutenant governor.

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Birk, who like Jensen opposes abortion in all cases including rape and incest, once said, "Abortion is not going to heal a rape victim. It will only make things worse." Nice to know Matt can mansplain rape to a rape victim.

Somehow, that's not even the most extreme thing the Jensen and Birk ticket stands for since it is generally the GOP's stance these days. No, that title belongs to remarks Jensen made at a district Republican convention in April, when he threatened to imprison Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon.

Simon's "crime?" Relaxing mail-in absentee voting requirements during the pandemic, a decision that was OK'd by the courts at the time and upheld by the courts later. Jensen is forwarding Donald Trump's Big Lie, that the 2020 election was stolen.

"... Steve Simon, you maybe better check out to see if you look good in stripes, because you've gotten away with too much, too long under [Minnesota Attorney General Keith] Ellison, and the hammer's coming down," Jensen said, to applause.

It matters not that Simon's done nothing illegal. Throwing him in prison is Jensen's answer to Republicans losing elections. Fascists gonna fascist.

It was once easy to dismiss the lunacy coming out of Republican conventions, but no more. Jensen, a former state senator, was once viewed as a reasonable moderate in the GOP. Now he's gone ultra-MAGA. It's the only way forward for a politician in the modern Republican Party, where conspiracy theories far outstrip policy stances in importance.

I used to joke that Lindell, the MyPillow guy who's gone around the bend, would be Minnesota Republicans' nominee for governor. Lindell said he toyed with the idea at the urging of Trump. It was funny to think a goofball like Lindell would represent the GOP at the top of November's ticket.

Jensen, turns out, isn't that much different. He wants to imprison a political adversary because Republicans can't win statewide elections in Minnesota. Totally normal.

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The fringe is the middle in the GOP and it's going to get worse before it gets better. Jensen is proof of that.

Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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