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Johnson Set To Face Off Against Dayton In Gubernatorial Race

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(credit: CBS) Pat Kessler
Pat Kessler knows Minnesota politics. He's been on the beat long...
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MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Republicans closed ranks Wednesday behind the winner of Tuesday’s primary election for governor.

Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson won a decisive primary victory over three opponents. He’ll face incumbent Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.

Johnson promises a campaign of ideas, not smears.

“I think Minnesotans are just tired of that,” Johnson said. “I’m not going to engage in that.”

As a county commissioner and former state lawmaker, Johnson has a record of winning metro area races.

He’s widely considered a nice guy, but expects Democrats to portray him as something else.

“They’re going to hammer me on everything under the sun,” he said. “They’re going to turn me into the guy who, you know, wants to drown kittens in the river for fun.”

Democrats have already started writing the DFL version of the Jeff Johnson story, calling him “affable,” but a “right wing Tea Party extremist.”

“The Republican Party of yesteryear, of my dad and many others, is no longer,” said State DFL Party Chair Ken Martin. “This is a very extreme, right wing Tea Party that doesn’t represent the mainstream of Minnesota voters.”

Johnson’s victory could be considered a victory for the Republican Party endorsement. He, and U.S. Senate candidate Mike McFadden, got the GOP blessing — and both won.

Political analyst Larry Jacobs, the Walter F. and Joan Mondale Chair for Political Studies at the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs, says it’s a strong indicator of a party on the mend after years of debt and infighting.

“The Republican Party is back,” Jacobs said. “They’ve got a strong ticket.”

He says the party may be able to topple their losing record, which they’ve suffered since 2006.

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