In the race to be the Republican nominee for governor, Jeff Johnson took the lead over his three opponents almost immediately after polls closed Tuesday night — and never lost it. In an election marked by low voter turnout, Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner, had just over 30 percent of the vote when the race was called.
Former Speaker of the House Kurt Zellers was holding on to 24 percent of the vote, followed by former state Rep. Marty Seifert with 21 percent of the vote and businessman Scott Honour, also with 21 percent.
Johnson reached out to his competitors in his first comments in accepting victory.
“They ran great campaigns, they ran substantive campaigns, and hopefully they will be walking side by side with us across the state,” he said to a crowd of about 150 supporters who gathered at Digby’s Bar and Grill in Plymouth.
Then Johnson took aim at his opponent in the November election, Gov. Mark Dayton.
“Mark Dayton is a fairly popular incumbent … but we can beat him,” he said. “I have a vision of a state where government isn’t taking more and more … to feed its insatiable appetite for spending. I have a vision of a state where we have ended this obsession of anger and envy over income differences.”
In an interview, Johnson said he doesn’t accept the premise that the state’s low unemployment numbers give Dayton an edge.
“Half the people are working in jobs they don’t want to be in, either part time or at a level or pay lower than where they should be,” he said. “We don’t need more minimum-wage jobs in Minnesota. We need more good-paying jobs and careers in Minnesota.”
Johnson will join Zellers, Honour, and Seifert tomorrow in St. Paul in what’s being billed as a “unity event.”
The DFL Party will follow with its own response to the primary, not to extol the DFL primary winners, but to talk about “GOP policies that weakened the middle class and communities.”