MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Name-calling, taxes and voting records were just some of the issues up for debate between the top Republicans running for governor.

With 10 days until the names on the November ballot are finalized, Jeff Johnson and Tim Pawlenty squared off on Minnesota Public Radio.

Almost as soon as the debate began, so did the name-calling.

“He is a poser in the sense that he talks about these things but he doesn’t do any of them,” Pawlenty said.

Johnson, who received the party endorsement, said a television ad Pawlenty has been running about him is false.

“It was the most dishonest ad I’ve seen in politics and I’ve been doing this for a few years,” Johnson said.

Johnson and Pawlenty did agree on a number of issues, including lowering and even eliminating some taxes, and that trade tariffs are counterproductive. But they butted heads on others. Funding for the Metropolitan Council back when Pawlenty was governor and Johnson was a lawmaker led to a heated back and forth.

Jeff Johnson {l} and Tim Pawlenty {r} (credit: CBS)

“Talk about mealy-mouthed explanations,” Pawlenty said. “Why didn’t you offer a bill to abolish it?”

“Tim,” Johnson replied. “I wasn’t governor, why didn’t you abolish it?”

When it came to gun safety both men say they support the second amendment. But Pawlenty believes bump stocks should be illegal, while Johnson took a different approach.

“I think we should make sure that anything that converts a gun into a machine gun is illegal and I think most people support that including most gun owners,” Pawlenty said.

“I don’t think changing the age in which someone can buy a semi-automatic weapon or ban a bump stock is going to stop a school shooting. Instead we have to talk about tougher issues, including family breakdown and mental health issues,” Johnson said.

The GOP candidates also took a pro-life stance but with different approaches. Johnson said he supports a heartbeat bill that has received support in Iowa.

“It’s hard to make the argument that that’s not a living human being if you can hear the heartbeat,” Johnson said.

Pawlenty pointed to efforts he made during his time as governor to give women more options and to encourage adoption.

“We want to work together to try to reduce the number of abortions in our state so we can do this in a safe, wise and legal manner,” Pawlenty said.

In the final minutes, the candidates were asked about President Donald Trump. While both said they voted for the president, each accused the other of not supporting him prior to the 2016 election. Johnson said Pawlenty called Trump unhinged and unfit to be President.

“To be blunt about it, Jeff called him a jackass,” Pawlenty said.

“Wait, let me explain that. I said if I have the choice between a jackass and a corrupt politician like Hillary Clinton, I’ll take the jackass,” Johnson said.

The Democratic gubernatorial candidates will debate off next week. MPR will host that in one week on Aug. 10. The Minnesota primary is on Aug. 14.

You can learn more about the platforms for all of the candidates running for statewide office on our website at our Election Guide.

John Lauritsen