First District DFL Congressman Tim Walz and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson will square off on the November ballot after emerging the winners in Tuesday’s hotly-contested gubernatorial …
First District DFL Congressman Tim Walz and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson will square off on the November ballot after emerging the winners in Tuesday’s hotly-contested gubernatorial races.
The results were among the biggest surprises in Tuesday’s voting in Minnesota, as recent polling had suggested that Attorney General Lori Swanson and former Gov. Tim Pawlenty were leading in their contests. Pawlenty, who served two previous terms as governor and worked most recently as a banking industry lobbyist, had amassed a huge war chest and outspent the lesser-known Johnson three-to-one.
But Johnson had won the GOP endorsement in June, and the party continued its solid track record of defending its endorsed candidates in primary battles. In the end, it wasn’t even close as Johnson topped Pawlenty by nine percentage points.
“It’s time for dramatic change in a government that has become arrogant and broken,” Johnson said in a statement. “We will change the culture in St. Paul from that of controlling and directing Minnesotans to actually serving the people who pay our salaries. Minnesotans will have more money in their pockets, and less government bureaucracy in their lives.”
Meanwhile, the DFL voters continued their tradition of bucking party endorsement, sending Walz on to the Nov. 6 general election over party-endorsed Erin Murphy. Walz picked up nearly 42 percent of the vote, much of it in the metro area and in the southern portion of the state that he has represented in Congress since 2006. Recent polling had shown Murphy trailing in a distant third place in the race, but she demonstrated surprising strength around the state and easily outpolled Swanson, who garnered just 24.5 percent to Murphy’s 32 percent.
Swanson had jumped into the race very late, after withdrawing from the endorsement battle for Attorney General at the party’s state convention in June. After three terms as attorney general, Swanson enjoyed high name recognition. When Congressman Rick Nolan signed up as her running mate, the duo appeared to be in the pole position to win the primary. But Nolan was hit with press reports, including in the Timberjay, that raised questions about his handling of sexual harassment complaints from office and campaign staff. And Swanson faced late-breaking allegations that she had used her office staff to do political work on her behalf. It all appeared to take a toll and opened up the race for Walz.
“I am humbled to be the DFL candidate for governor,” said Walz in a statement. “Our campaign was founded on the belief that there is more that unites us than divides us. We believe in a state where we can come together around our shared values to address our diverse needs. We believe when the Twin Cities thrive, Greater Minnesota thrives—and when Greater Minnesota thrives, the Twin Cities thrive.”
On the GOP side, President Trump weighed in on the race earlier this week, throwing his support to Johnson. That’s despite the fact that Johnson had previously been critical of Trump, once calling him a “jackass.” Pawlenty had also abandoned Trump in the wake of the release of the Access Hollywood tape in 2016, that had caught Trump making derogatory remarks about women. The Johnson campaign capitalized on this with ads highly critical of Pawlenty’s comments about Trump in the aftermath of the tape’s release.