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Governor's race: Trump endorses Johnson; Walz strong in Twin Cities, southern Minnesota

Minnesota governor candidates U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, left, and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson share a laugh before a recent forum in Mankato. Democratic voters picked Walz and Republicans voted for Johnson in the Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018, primary election. Don Davis / Forum News Service

ST. PAUL -- President Donald Trump wants to influence Minnesota's governor race.

The winner of the Tuesday, Aug. 14, Republican primary received the president's endorsement and the loser said he failed because he is not on Trump's wavelength.

Trump endorsed Republican governor candidate Jeff Johnson Wednesday, tweeting: "Jeff Johnson of Minnesota had a big night in winning the Republican nomination for Governor against a very strong and well known opponent! Thanks for all of the support you showed me. You have my complete and total Endorsement. You will win in November!"

Johnson said he was happy with the endorsement, but it was unclear if it would help him win the general election against Democratic U.S. Rep. Tim Walz.

Johnson said he would welcome a Trump visit to promote his campaign. He had no advance word the endorsement was coming. "I read it on Twitter."

As he campaigned for governor, Johnson often associated himself with Trump policies, if not Trump's style.

Johnson Tuesday beat former two-term Gov. Tim Pawlenty by a surprising 53 percent to 44 percent.

In the campaign, Pawlenty said he mostly supports Trump policies. However, he was highly critical of then-candidate Trump before the 2016 election.

Pawlenty said he is leaving politics for good, blaming a pro-Trump atmosphere.

"I think the Republican Party has shifted," he said. "It is the era of Trump and I am just not a Trump-like politician."

Pawlenty won 19 of the state's 87 counties, scattered around the state. Most of his victories were by small margins, while Johnson won with much bigger numbers.

Pawlenty raised and spent far more money than Johnson, who has been campaigning 15 months. Pawlenty entered the race early this year.

On the Democratic side, Walz dominated the area he serves in southern Minnesota as a congressman, the Twin Cities and much of the Interstate 94 corridor.

In second place, state Rep. Erin Murphy of St. Paul only won Cook County, in the extreme northeast. Third-place Lori Swanson, the state attorney general, won several northern and western Minnesota counties.

Walz and Johnson said they were good guys, which could keep the tone of their two campaign more civil than sometimes is seen. However, outside groups not under the campaigns' control could go nasty.

"I think this can be a spirited debate on the issues ... without descending into the nastiness," Walz said.

Said Johnson: "I like Tim. I think people will like Tim. I think most people like me, so hopefully it won't turn into a mudslinging contest."

"We get along well, but we just have two fundamentally different visions for this state," Walz said.

Turnout historic

More Minnesotans voted in Tuesday's primary -- 902,119 -- than any since 1982, the secretary of state's office reports.

Nearly 23 percent of registered voters cast ballots, the highest primary percentage since 1994.

That comes as voter participation in primaries had been dropping, to a low of 7 percent two years ago.

Also hitting a new record was the number of early ballots, along with mail ballots used in many small precincts. Together they amounted to 143,957.

Ellison investigated

The Democratic National Committee is looking into domestic abuse allegations against U.S. Rep. Keith Ellison, deputy director of the national party and the party's Minnesota attorney general nominee.

National Public Radio reports the committee released a statement: "These allegations recently came to light and we are reviewing them. All allegations of domestic abuse are disturbing and should be taken seriously."

The national committee meets next week in Chicago, where the issue is bound to arise. Ellison apparently has not been very involved in party work as he runs for attorney general.

A former girlfriend says Ellison was caught on video pulling her out of a bed. However, she will not release the recording and Ellison strongly denies it happened.

No unity tour

A DFL official said "scheduling conflicts" forced the party to cancel a unity tour that was supposed to begin Thursday and take candidates around the state.

But many social media users doubted that was the real reason. They said other candidates did not want to deal with the Ellison domestic abuse allegations.

Usually, Democrats take a bus around the state, picking up local candidates as they go, to get the fall campaign started.

All the returns

To see returns on all Minnesota primary races, go to tinyurl.com/MN2018primary.

The Nov. 6 matchups

Here are statewide and U.S. House races that will be on the Nov. 6 general election ballot:

Governor-lieutenant governor

Republican, Jeff Johnson-Donna Bergstrom. Democrat,Tim Walz-Peggy Flanagan. Libertarian, Josh Welter-Mary O'Connor. Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis, Chris Wright-Judith Schwartzbacker

Secretary of state

Republican, John Howe. Democrat, Steve Simon(i). Independence, William Denney

State auditor

Republican, Pam Myhra. Democrat, Julie Blaha. Libertarian, Chris Dock. Legal Marijuana Now, Michael Ford

Attorney general

Republican, Doug Wardlow. Democrat, Keith Ellison. Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis, Noah Johnson

U.S. Senate (full six-year term)

Republican, Jim Newberger. Democrat, Amy Klobuchar(i). Green, Paula Overby. Legal Marijuana Now, Dennis Schuller

U.S. Senate (to fill two years of Al Franken term)

Republican, Karin Housley. Democrat, Tina Smith. Unaffiliated, Jerry Trooien. Legal Marijuana Now, Sarah Wellington

U.S. House District 1

Republican, Jim Hagedorn. Democrat: Dan Feehan

U.S. House District 2

Republican, Jason Lewis(i). Democrat, Angie Craig

U.S. House District 3

Republican, Erik Paulsen(i). Democrat, Dean Phillips

U.S. House District 4

Republican, Greg Ryan. Democrat: Betty McCollum(i). Legal Marijuana Now, Susan Pendergast Sindt

U.S. House District 5

Republican, Jennifer Zielinski. Democrat, Ilhan Omar

U.S. House District 6

Republican, Tom Emmer(i). Democrat, Ian Todd

U.S. House District 7

Republican, Dave Hughes. Democrat: Collin Peterson(i)

U.S. House District 8

Republican, Pete Stauber. Democrat, Joe Radinovich. Independence, Ray Skip Sandman

Minnesota Legislature

All 134 House seats are on the ballot. The only Senate seat in front of voters is one vacated by Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach, R-Paynesville

(i) indicates the candidate is an incumbent

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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