Game Fair candidate debate in 2022 hinges on Walz
Most election year Augusts since the late 1990s, Outdoor News and the Minnesota Outdoor Heritage Alliance have co-hosted candidate debates at Game Fair in Ramsey. We’ve had several congenial (and a couple of semi-raucous) events with U.S. Senate and gubernatorial politicians. The forums have been well received by candidates, generated a few headlines, and provided an opportunity to get potential leaders on record regarding issues affecting hunters, anglers, and conservationists. Ron Schara and I typically pitch questions to the candidates, and we take a few from the crowd, too.
Given the short shrift the environment got during the legislative session, there are some tough topics to grill candidates about this year. But with Game Fair two weeks away, organizers remain disappointed that we haven’t yet locked in a governor’s debate. To his credit, Republican candidate Scott Jensen has told us he’ll attend a forum tentatively slated for Saturday, Aug. 20, but Gov. Tim Walz’s people say they’re struggling to fit us into the schedule.
To be fair, during the 2006 and 2014 election years, we also did not have gubernatorial forums at Game Fair. Perhaps the primary calendar dates prevented us from having candidates in place in time, I really don’t recall. Both of those years also involved incumbent governors. That said, after a couple of lousy legislative sessions, there’s a general feeling among state sportsmen that the outdoors ranks low on the priority list of politicians. Meanwhile, many candidates eagerly are promoting their attendance at Farm Fest in Redwood County, which will include a governor’s debate forum (with Walz) on Wednesday, Aug. 3.
While trying to be respectful of the GOP candidate’s willingness to attend on the 20th, we’ve stressed that Game Fair runs six days, and we’re open to finding a date that works for both candidates. Game Fair owner Chuck Delaney repeatedly has said his operation remains flexible and will find a slot for the forum, even last minute. Organizers, including yours truly, have reached out to key people in the governor’s circle multiple times to try to make this event happen, but we’re down to 14 days before the first Game Fair weekend, Aug. 12-14. We need some engagement from Gov. Walz.
Folks of all political stripes will tell you Walz turned in a solid performance during this same event at Game Fair four years ago, so we’re perplexed why he or his campaign staff haven’t made it a priority again in 2022.
What’s the story, Gov. Walz?