Walz, Johnson win governor primaries; to face off in fall

ST. PAUL -- Jeff Johnson and Tim Walz will be Minnesotans' choices for governor this fall. "I think we sent a message, people want something different," Republican Jeff Johnson said shortly after 10 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 14, as vote counting wound ...

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Governor candidate Tim Walz speaks to the June 2018 Minnesota Democratic convention. He was not endorsed then, but came out ahead in Tuesday's primary vote. Don Davis / Forum News Service

ST. PAUL -- Jeff Johnson and Tim Walz will be Minnesotans' choices for governor this fall.

"I think we sent a message, people want something different," Republican Jeff Johnson said shortly after 10 p.m., Tuesday, Aug. 14, as vote counting wound down in the state primary election.

Johnson said he was not for the status quo, and campaigned as the most conservative governor candidate.

Johnson's opponent, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, conceded the race.

Pawlenty said he is done with politics. "I'm grateful for the opportunity to have served."


With 97 percent of precincts reporting, Johnson led Pawlenty 52 percent to 44 percent. Johnson tallied 163,1458 votes, compared to 136,305 for Pawlenty with almost all precincts counted.

For Democrats, Walz held a 42 percent to 32 percent lead over state Rep. Erin Murphy.

He recorded 237,048 votes, compared to 182,499 for Murphy with 97 percent of the precincts tallied.

Attorney General Lori Swanson, finishing third, conceded at 9:30 p.m. She had 24 percent of the vote with 136,591 votes.

Walz went in front of supporters an hour later to declare victory.

"Tonight we sent a clear message across our state and our country," Walz tweeted, adding that Minnesota "is a place where we stand up to bullies to build better communities. ... This is only halftime -- onward to November."

Walz and Johnson both claim greater Minnesota connections. Walz is the only candidate who lives there, while Johnson was raised in Detroit Lakes.

Johnson won the Republican Party endorsement in June, but Murphy won the Democratic convention vote. Still, the DFL leader congratulated Walz.


"Tim and (running mate) Peggy (Flanagan) have spent years fighting on behalf of Minnesota families and I have no doubt that they will build one Minnesota that works for everyone," DFL Chairman Ken Martin said. "Their positive vision for Minnesota’s future clearly resonated with Minnesota voters and I am excited to work alongside them and the rest of our ticket as we bring that message to the general electorate over the next 83 days."

Also, state Rep. Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American to be elected to any state legislature, appeared about to become the first Somali-American woman in the U.S. House, representing a Minneapolis-centered district. Omar led second-place finisher former House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher 48 percent to 30 percent with most of the votes counted.
The district is heavily Democratic, so the winner of the primary is the likely U.S. representative.

U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, who left the district Omar won to run for attorney general, easily beat four rivals with 50 percent with most votes counted.
The primary trimmed races down to one person per party for each open office.

Reports indicated some polling places, especially on the Iron Range, ran out of ballots and some areas were setting modern-day turnout records. More people voted in Minneapolis, for instance, than any primary since 1990.
Ellison and Swanson gained unwanted attention in the days leading up to the vote. Both strongly denied allegations against them.
Swanson was accused of pressuring state employees to work for her politically. A former Ellison girlfriend accused him of abusing her.
The state's two Democratic senators won the right to be on the Nov. 6 ballot.
Appointed U.S. Sen. Tina Smith beat former Republican Richard Painter, who has been a frequent critic of President Donald Trump on cable television channels. The two, with state Sen. Karin Housley on the GOP ticket, were vying for the final two years of Al Franken's term; he resigned after being accused of sexual misconduct.
Incumbent U.S. Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat, and Republican state Rep. Jim Newberger defeated little-known opponents to remain in the running for a six-year Senate term.

Other races with contests include:

  • In U.S.House District 1, covering southern Minnesota, Republican Party-endorsed candidate Jim Hagedorn beat state Sen. Carla Nelson. For Democrats, it was Dan Feehan beating Coke Minehart.
  • In northeast Minnesota's U.S. House District 8, Joe Radinovich took a surprisingly easy win in a crowded race. His Republican challenger Pete Stauber, who hosted Trump and Vice President Mike Pence, beat Harry Robb Welty.
  • Republican Doug Wardlow won his party's attorney general nomination.
  • Republic Dave Hughes beat Matt Prosch in western Minnesota U.S. House district to earn the right to take on Democratic U.S. Rep. Collin Peterson.

Pawlenty was governor from 2003 to 2011, and ran for president at the end of his second term. While Johnson has been on the campaign trail 15 months and earned the party's endorsement at its state convention, Pawlenty just joined the race early this year.
Johnson lost the governor's race to Mark Dayton four years ago and the attorney general's race to Swanson in 2006.

Walz was was a teacher and in the National Guard 24 years before becoming congressmen 12 years ago. When talking to greater Minnesota residents, he told of his work on Congress on rural issues, such as the farm bill.


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