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Jeff Johnson celebrates his primary election victory Tuesday evening.

Johnson to face Dayton in November

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ST. PAUL -- The Republican who grew up in greater Minnesota and now is a Hennepin County commissioner declared a primary election victory Tuesday night, setting up a race with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton in the fall election.

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Jeff Johnson was getting about 30 percent of the vote in a rare four-way Republican primary election race late Tuesday. It appeared his lead, although slightly shrinking through the night, was strong enough to give him the GOP nomination.

With 70 percent of the precincts tallied, unofficial returns showed the three other major candidates close: Kurt Zellers with 24 percent, Scott Honour with 22 percent and Marty Seifert with 20 percent.

The other statewide race to earn the public's attention was for state auditor, where incumbent Rebecca Otto beat longtime Minnesota politician Matt Entenza.

The GOP governor's race was in Tuesday's spotlight.

Johnson, 47, a Detroit Lakes native and former state lawmaker, received the Republican state convention's endorsement in May.

He won 59 percent of the vote in Becker County. 

After he was named the winner Tuesday night, Johnson thanked supporters and introduced his parents, who made the trek from Detroit Lakes to the celebration.

"Now it is time we finished the job," he said about the general election campaign.

The four GOP governor candidates plan a news conference together this morning to show Republican unity. Honour, the outsider in the race, said Tuesday night that he would support whoever won, and predicted other Republicans would, too.

The four engaged in a few debates near the end of the campaign, and while some sparks flew, they generally reserved their criticism for Dayton.

Little known candidate Merrill Anderson also was on the GOP governor ballot and received little support.

Entenza livened up a usually boring auditor's contest by filing election paperwork 15 minutes before the deadline in June.

He conceded Tuesday night and said he endorses Otto in the general election.

"We had obviously hoped for a better result, but a dramatically low turnout made it difficult to overcome the advantages of an incumbent candidate," Entenza said.

Otto touted honors she has received as auditor and said Entenza was promising to change policy when the auditor is only supposed to check the books of local governments.

The two ran television commercials, a rarity for an auditor primary.

Dayton faced token primary opposition from perennial candidates Leslie Davis and Bill Dahn.

Democratic-endorsed secretary of state candidate Steve Simon held a solid lead over two frequent candidates who did little campaigning, Dick Franson and Gregg Iverson. Unknowns David Singleton and Bob Helland were close early Tuesday night in the Independence Party race.

For attorney general, Republican-endorsed state Sen. Scott Newman beat perennial candidate Sharon Anderson.

State Reps. Phyllis Kahn, D-Minneapolis, and Jenifer Loon, R-Eden Prairie, defeated challengers in the two state House highlighted races.

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Republican governor

Republican (70 percent of 4,016 precincts reporting): Scott Honour, 30,222 (22 percent); Jeff Johnson, 42,323 (30 percent); Marty Seifert, 28,397 (20 percent); Kurt Zellers, 34,240 (24 percent)

DFL state auditor

Democratic (29 percent of 4,016 precincts reporting): Matt Entenza, 12,938 (16 percent); Rebecca Otto, 63,994 (84 percent)

 
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Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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