MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Gov. Mark Dayton got a hero’s welcome Monday from union workers at the Minnesota AFL-CIO Conference in St. Paul.

Dayton, Minnesota’s first Democratic governor in two decades, told convention delegates he delivered what he promised – jobs.

“All those efforts by the public sector and the private sector, working together, add up to 162,000 more jobs in Minnesota than before I took office in 2011,” Dayton said.

He says the new Vikings stadium is one if his biggest accomplishments, as well as a minimum-wage hike to $9.50 an hour by 2016. And he backed labor efforts to unionize home-care and child-care workers.

Republican governor candidate Jeff Johnson is hitting Dayton hard on the union connections, the people Johnson calls “union bosses.”

“There has been a pattern in this administration of political payback,” Johnson said.

The state Republican Party went further, posting a video it calls “A Payback Minnesota,” which shows the governor speaking at an AFSCME conference in 2010.

“If you give me your support this year, and for the next eight years, I will give you my support,” Dayton said.

But an energized Dayton called Johnson a “tea party extremist,” whose goal is to destroy government.

“You know, I’m almost amazed at the folks who detest government, who believe it’s totally incompetent, and then want jobs in government,” he said.

Johnson tells WCCO he’s not anti-union, but he says if he’s elected he will try to curb the power of public unions.

And he says he supports the idea that Minnesota could become a right-to-work state — like Wisconsin, South Dakota and a number of others.

Union support gives Dayton tens of thousands of potential volunteers who will campaign for him.

And it’s also crucial for other candidates. Minnesota labor unions are contributing $4 million to Democrats and Democrat-leaning groups.

Pat Kessler

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