It's hard to tell what Republican candidate Scott Jensen supports: Thielen

It's hard to tell exactly what Republican candidate Scott Jensen supports in his bid for governor because his approach and his issues seem to change by the day.

Early in his campaign, his biggest issue seemed to be banning all abortions, as he told Minnesota Public Radio in March. But after his running mate, former Minnesota Viking Matt Birk, came under fire for saying the same thing at a June national pro-life convention, he suddenly discovered the Minnesota state constitution protects access to abortion and he was not going to run on that issue.

Precisely what Jensen is running for isn't clear or consistent. His favorite spiel now sounds something like he told the Duluth News-Tribune for their Sept. 7 edition: "...I'm running because we need safe streets, excellent schools, parental rights and more money in the family budget."

But most of the past few years he's focused on one issue — COVID-19 and the response by both our state and nation.

Jensen wasn't always a far-right outlier. He grew up in Sleepy Eye, graduated as valedictorian of his high school class, then graduated magna cum laude (with high honors) from the University of Minnesota and finished medical school to become a doctor. Married with three children, Jensen practices at a Watertown clinic in southern Minnesota and in 2016 was named the Minnesota Family Physician of the Year.

Echoing his father's 29-year stint in the state legislature, Jensen ran for the Minnesota state Senate in 2016 after several years on the Waconia school board. He was seen as an eccentric and unpredictable legislator but still a moderate Republican.

Jensen veered to the far right after his wife needed several surgeries about the time the COVID-19 pandemic started. Jensen reacted strongly to a questionnaire from the Center for Disease Control inquiring if his wife's health issues were in any way related to COVID-19, accusing the CDC of looking for ways to inflate the numbers of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

From that point on, Jensen fought virtually everything being done to treat and prevent COVID-19. He criticized the handling of the pandemic, opposed the state lock-down of schools and businesses and promoted anti-vaccination theories such as ivermectin and hydroxychloroquine being effective methods of treating COVID-19.

By April 2020, Jensen was appearing on Fox News' "The Ingraham Angle," where he repeated his theory that the COVID-19 death toll was being inflated. In that same year he would air his views in a conspiracy theory video called "Plandemic."

A year later, in May 2021, he sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in an attempt to prevent children from receiving COVID-19 vaccinations. His fellow plaintiffs included Simone Gold, founder of the right-wing political organization America's Frontline Doctors, who gained notoriety for promotion of false and misleading COVID-19 claims, according to Wikipedia. Gold also was involved in the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. Jensen claimed he had "quietly" been a member of AFO but didn't know about Gold's involvement at the Capitol.

But Jensen continued his quest. After getting into trouble with both TikTok and Facebook for COVID-19 misinformation, in September 2021, he urged all Minnesota citizens and businesses to ignore the Biden Administration's proposal for large companies to require their employees to get vaccinated for COVID-19 or be tested weekly.

Perhaps the most telling of Jensen's real issue in his campaign is the video produced shortly after naming Matt Birk his running mate this past March. In it he proclaims "We're going to need a player who isn't afraid to hit back" as a football player in a red jersey with "No. 22" on the back plows through blue-clad opponents whose jerseys are labeled "Mask Mandate," "School Shut-Down" and other COVID-related issues.

Perhaps this issue is the one he sees garnering him the most votes, especially in outstate Minnesota. But it would merit more respect if he were more honest about it.

— This is the opinion of Times Writers Group member Lois Thielen, a dairy farmer who lives near Grey Eagle. Her column is published the first Sunday of the month.

This article originally appeared on St. Cloud Times: It's hard to tell what Republican candidate Scott Jensen supports