KSTP/SURVEYUSA: Walz leads GOP contenders, race still close with Jensen and Gazelka

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Republican candidate for governor Scott Jensen has run the splashiest campaign among the half dozen GOP candidates seeking the party endorsement to challenge DFL Governor Tim Walz. That might explain why he remains in the tightest hypothetical race with Walz. According to our latest KSTP/SurveyUSA poll, Walz leads Jensen 44% to 39%, with 4% favoring a candidate of another party and 13% undecided.

“When you look at this survey it’s a competitive racer with Scott Jensen,” says Carleton College political analyst Steven Schier. “I think Jensen is doing a little bit better than the other Republicans because he’s been more visible and is better funded than the other Republicans.” However, Walz slightly widened his lead over Jensen, with Walz now ahead by five points compared to a three-point lead in February.

Walz also widened his lead by two points over his next closest competitor, former Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka. Walz leads Gazelka 43% to 36% with 15% undecided. The double-digit undecided voters in all hypothetical match-ups could be an area of concern for an incumbent governor.

“Generally the more well-known a Republican the better that person does against Governor Walz and that would include Gazelka and Jensen,” Schier says.

The next best-known Republican might be former Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek. This is the first time we’ve included Stanek in the poll after his late entry in the race. He trails Walz by 10 points, 47% to 37%. That ties him with two political newcomers, Dr. Neil Shah (trailing Walz 44% to 34%) and Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy (trailing 45% to 35%), who are also both 10 points back.

Businessman Kendall Qualls, a former congressional candidate, trails Walz by 12 points, 46% to 34%, after touting momentum he says he’s gained in recent local straw polls.

“What Qualls has to do is make himself much more visible to Minnesotans which means raising more money and presenting a message Minnesotans will find attractive,” Schier told 5 Eyewitness News.

The next round of polling will be significant if Republicans endorse a candidate at their state convention this weekend and narrow the field to their candidate versus Governor Walz.

SurveyUSA interviewed a representative cross-section of 725 Minnesota adults online 05/05/22 through 05/10/22, using sample provided by Lucid Holdings LLC of New Orleans. Of the adults, 629 were registered to vote. Of the registered voters, 513 were identified by SurveyUSA as being likely to vote in the November 2022 general election and were asked the questions which follow. The pool of adult survey respondents was weighted to US Census targets for gender, age, race, education and home ownership.