Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka steps down, teeing up expected bid for governor

The move comes the same day that Republican Sen. Michelle Benson announced her campaign for governor.

Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, speaks at the Safest Way Tour event at LaValley Industries on Friday, Aug. 20, 2021, in Bemidji. (Madelyn Haasken / Bemidji Pioneer)
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ST. PAUL — Minnesota Senate Majority Leader Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, on Tuesday, Sept. 1, announced that he would resign his post ahead of an anticipated run for governor.

The news comes the same day Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, launched her campaign to unseat Gov. Tim Walz. Benson joins a crowded field of GOP candidates. So far, former state Sen. Scott Jensen, activist Bob Carney, businessman Mike Marti, Lexington Mayor Mike Murphy and physician Neil Shah have announced their intentions to run on the Republican ticket.

And Gazelka has said he'll announce a potential bid in coming days, after meeting with constituents at the State Fair.

Gazelka in a letter to his colleagues touted Senate GOP efforts to block tax hikes, pass tax cuts, advance bipartisan state budget agreements and prevent DFL policy priorities from passing through the divided Statehouse. He has served in the leadership position for five years under former Gov. Mark Dayton and Walz.

"I’m so very grateful for the work we’ve accomplished together and believe the caucus is in a very strong position to be successful in the 2022 session and the subsequent election," Gazelka said in a news release. "I plan to be a part of that future success but look forward to letting someone else take over serving as leader while I pursue the next chapter in my political life."


At the State Fair on Wednesday, Gazelka told reporters that he didn't plan to seek re-election to his state Senate seat whether he ran for governor or not.

Senate Republicans will have to elect another leader ahead of a possible special legislative session to take up front-line worker hero pay. Walz on Tuesday said he'd wait to call a special session or avoid calling one at all until GOP lawmakers agreed not to remove commissioners during their time in St. Paul.

Follow Dana Ferguson on Twitter @bydanaferguson , call 651-290-0707 or email

Dana Ferguson is a Minnesota Capitol Correspondent for Forum News Service. Ferguson has covered state government and political stories since she joined the news service in 2018, reporting on the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the divided Statehouse and the 2020 election.
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