Johnson, Walz to face off for Minnesota governor

Published 11:30 pm Tuesday, August 14, 2018

ST. PAUL — Democratic Rep. Tim Walz has won a three-way primary for Minnesota governor.

Walz leveraged his rural Minnesota connections and a geographically balanced ticket to defeat state Rep. Erin Murphy and Attorney General Lori Swanson in Tuesday’s primary. Walz is leaving Congress after six terms representing southwestern Minnesota.

Walz’s outstate appeal and pedigree as a former teacher and a National Guard veteran had long made him a favorite among Democrats trying to hang on to the office as two-term Gov. Mark Dayton retires.

But he lost the party’s endorsement in June to Murphy and shook up his campaign soon afterward.

County Commissioner Jeff Johnson has beaten former Gov. Tim Pawlenty in Minnesota’s Republican primary for governor, derailing Pawlenty’s bid to reclaim his old job.

Johnson won Tuesday despite Pawlenty’s enormous fundraising and name recognition advantages. He also won despite his own history as the party’s losing candidate for governor four years ago.

Johnson positioned himself as a more conservative candidate than Pawlenty. He branded the former two-term governor as part of the “status quo” and bashed him for calling Trump “unhinged and unfit for the presidency” in the weeks leading up to the 2016 election.

Pawlenty was hoping to resurrect his political career after flaming out as a presidential candidate in 2011. He spent the intervening years as a Washington lobbyist.