Former Minnesota Vikings center Matt Birk will be Scott Jensen’s running mate in his bid to unseat DFL Gov. Tim Walz in November.
Jensen, a Republican, announced his lieutenant governor pick at a Tuesday rally in Eagan.
“We need to take back the field, but we can’t do it alone,” Jensen said in a football-themed video announcement Tuesday evening. “We need a teammate who isn’t afraid to hit back.”
Jensen is the first in a large GOP field of gubernatorial hopefuls to announce a running mate.
In a statement, Minnesota DFL Party Chair Ken Martin said Jensen’s choice is a sign his campaign is “doubling down on far-right extremism.”
“Matt Birk has campaigned to ban same-sex marriage in Minnesota, supports outlawing abortion, and is a vehement anti-vaxxer,” Martin said. “The Jensen-Birk ticket’s far-right extremism is out of touch with Minnesota’s values, and the contrast with Gov. Walz and Lt. Gov. [Peggy] Flanagan couldn’t be clearer.”
Birk, 45, is a graduate of St. Paul’s Cretin-Derham Hall High School and Harvard University. The father of eight co-founded Unity High School, a Catholic school in Burnsville, and works as a professional speaker. Along with his wife, Adrianna, Birk joined the Jensen campaign as co-chair last year.
Birk spent a decade with the Vikings before joining the Baltimore Ravens in 2009. In 2012, his last year with the NFL, he supported a proposed constitutional amendment that would have banned same-sex marriage in Minnesota. He also appeared in a Maryland Marriage Alliance video urging voters to oppose a referendum to allow same-sex couples in that state to marry.
Following the Ravens’ Super Bowl win, Birk declined to visit the White House with his teammates in 2013, citing President Barack Obama’s stance on abortion.
Emma Nelson is a Star Tribune metro team leader with an emphasis on St. Paul coverage. She previously reported on the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis and Scott and Dakota counties.
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