Walz picks state legislator as running mate

State Rep. Peggy Flanagan, DFL-St. Louis Park, was chosen as Tim Walz’s running mate. Minnesota House photo

The first full ticket in Minnesota’s race for governor formed Thursday when Democrat Tim Walz picked state Rep. Peggy Flanagan, DFL-St. Louis Park, as his potential lieutenant governor.

The pairing brings gender and geographic balance to his campaign, and gives the 1st District congressman a running mate on firmer ground with the party’s liberal base than he is.

Flanagan, 38, has served in the Minnesota House since winning a special election to represent a district covering St. Louis Park, Golden Valley and surrounding areas in 2015. She explored a run for Congress when 5th District Rep. Keith Ellison ran for national Democratic Party chairman and said he would leave his seat if victorious.

She previously was executive director at the Children’s Defense Fund and is a partner at The Management Center, which describes itself as a training organization for social justice leaders.

If the Walz-Flanagan ticket can go the distance, she would be the first person of color to hold a statewide office and reach one of the highest political posts a Native American has held.

According to the Walz campaign, the two first met at a Camp Wellstone event in 2005. The program is named for former U.S. Sen. Paul Wellstone. Walz won his seat in Congress in 2006 and won re-election five times.

Walz is seeking the DFL Party endorsement but hasn’t ruled out running in an August primary if another candidate edges him for the party backing.

Other announced DFL contenders for governor are: St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, state Rep. Tina Liebling of Rochester, state Rep. Erin Murphy of St. Paul, State Auditor Rebecca Otto and state Rep. Paul Thissen of Minneapolis.

The leading Republicans are: state Rep. Matt Dean of Dellwood, former GOP Chairman Keith Downey, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson and state Sen. Dave Osmek of Mound.

The fields in both parties could still grow. Incumbent DFL Gov. Mark Dayton isn’t seeking a third term.