MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The Minnesota Fair marks the unofficial kick-off of the fall election campaigns.

Both Governor Mark Dayton and his Republican challenger, Jeff Johnson, are making their case in person with fair goers.

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Amidst the food, the rides and the fun of the Minnesota Fair, there is politics. Candidates are drawn here by one simple fact, with an average of 1.7million people coming to the fair each year in a state with just over five million people – this is where the voters are.

The race for Governor has seen both candidate hit the fair hard. Dayton’s campaign theme is simple he says Minnesota is better off than it was four years ago when he took office.

Dayton points to Minnesota’s unemployment rate at 4.5 percent, one of the lowest in the nation.  Challenger Johnson insists the state’s economic growth is being held back by the Governor’s policies, especially when it comes to taxes.

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Both Dayton and Johnson appeared on WCCO Sunday Morning at the Minnesota State Fair

“I campaigned four years ago promising a better Minnesota. There is no doubt in my mind we are a better state than we were then. We have 150,000 more jobs, we have a GDP growth that one of the best in the nation,” Gov. Dayton said

“To suggest that everything is rosy that everyone is doing great in Minnesota is a little out of touch, and I say that after talking to Minnesotans all over the state and particularly the last few days here at the fair,” Jeff Johnson said.

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When he won the Republican primary earlier this month Johnson acknowledged that Dayton is “a fairly popular incumbent and a lot of people say it going to be really hard to beat him.” And while Johnson insists he can win, most political analysts agree this will be an uphill fight.

Esme Murphy