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Johnson aiming for November

Governor candidate Jeff Johnson will face three other Republicans in the Aug. 12 primary election, but he’s already looking to November and Democrat incumbent Gov. Mark Dayton.

“We have been focusing almost entirely on the general election,” Johnson said during a stop in Red Wing. He said that’s because Republicans need to be “united and energized as a party” this fall.

“If we are spending these next five weeks beating on each other, it’s going to be really hard to win,” he said.

“We’re not taking them for granted either,” lieutenant governor candidate Bill Kuisle added. “They’re good candidates, we just think we’re better.”

Johnson, endorsed by the GOP, is up against Scott Honour, Marty Seifert and Kurt Zellers in August.

Johnson was born and raised in Detroit Lakes and still has family there, he said. He has been a member of the state House and Hennepin County Board.

Johnson said he thinks that experience is beneficial. Some of the biggest arguments in the Legislature revolve around geography rather than ideology, he said, often with metro-area and greater Minnesota lawmakers on opposite sides.

“I don’t think it’s necessarily healthy to have a governor who just falls into one of those two camps, and I think I’m the only one can show that I’ve essentially spent half of my life in each,” Johnson said.

Kuisle grew up on a farm near Rochester and served on a township board and as Olmsted County commissioner. He also was a member of the House.

Johnson said the most talked-about topic among voters has been jobs, and that’s also his priority. He said while the state’s unemployment rate is lower than the national average, underemployment is a major issue.

Changes to the business atmosphere are needed, Johnson said, including tax and regulation reform to make Minnesota more competitive.

Other priorities include education reform — “we want to make sure no matter where you live in Minnesota you have access to a great education” — and measuring government programs to make sure money is going to ones that work.

Other issues

Johnson also touched on a number of other issues, including:

Silica sand mining: “I’m always going to lean toward local control on issues like that, so I would say that there should be little state involvement,” Johnson said, adding sand mining should be done in an environmentally safe way and the state is part of enforcing that.

Invasive species: Johnson said the state needs explore and balance the cost of options and their effectiveness for combating invasive species, knowing many probably can’t stopped but can be controlled.

Energy: “I think nuclear is an extremely important energy source for us,” he said. While sources such as solar and wind can be useful when costs and benefits are balanced, Johnson said, “I’m not a big fan of government picking which forms of energy to subsidize and then not subsidizing others, so in other words picking winners and losers.”

Transportation: “I am a strong believer that roads need to be our top priority when it comes to transportation because that is what everybody relies on,” Johnson said. “Even if you don’t own a car, you rely on roads.”

Rail plans often are expensive, he said, but if there’s a cost-effective option he would consider it.

State bonding: “Sometimes we see bonding used as a way to get a vote as opposed to a way to find something that benefits the larger people,” Johnson said. Projects should have statewide or regional impact, he said. “As long as you can show it benefits a region I think it’s fair game.”

Danielle Killey

Danielle Killey covers local government for the South Washington County Bulletin. She has worked as a reporter for other Forum Communications newspapers since 2011. She graduated from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities with a journalism degree.

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