GOP seeks unity after primary 

Published 9:35 am Wednesday, August 13, 2014

MINNEAPOLIS — Newly crowned gubernatorial nominee Jeff Johnson and fellow Minnesota Republicans turned Wednesday to patching any wounds from a competitive primary, stressing the need for unity in their bid to unseat Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.

Johnson’s three vanquished primary opponents planned to rally behind Tuesday’s winner as the fall campaign hit its official starting point. The ticket was formally set in a well-underway U.S. Senate race that features Democratic incumbent Al Franken and investment banker Mike McFadden for the Republicans.

The summer election that drew only minor turnout resulted in victories for legislative incumbents and only one surprise on the congressional front — the GOP’s Jim Hagedorn upended endorsed party candidate Aaron Miller in southern Minnesota.

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By far, the most intensity surrounded the GOP’s four-way race for governor. Johnson eased past a tightly clustered chase pack of legislative veterans Kurt Zellers and Marty Seifert as well as businessman Scott Honour. They all issued statements of support for Johnson after he was declared the winner, with Honour saying anything less than unity could mean settling “for mediocrity and business-as-usual.”

Johnson, who lagged his rivals in fundraising, said he must roar from the gate.

“We’re going to be traveling like mad and raising money,” Johnson told The Associated Press moments after his victory. “Mark Dayton, while he’s a good man, he seems to be in over his head somewhat. One thing Minnesotans really value is competence.”

The general election will be fought over Dayton’s stewardship of the state budget, particularly his move to raise taxes to support new spending on schools and other priorities. He argues the state’s shift from a deficit to a surplus on his watch and its low unemployment rate are signs things are headed in the right direction.

The GOP candidates say Dayton has taken undue credit for a turnaround that their party helped usher in when in control of the Legislature and they say the jobless rate is misleading because too many people are working in positions beneath their skill level. They also plan to hammer him over the fumbled rollout of Obama’s health law in Minnesota and a $77 million office building under construction for state senators.