Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson successfully secured the GOP’s endorsement for governor Saturday evening, beating out three other gubernatorial candidates vying for the party’s backing during the weekend convention.
Despite winning the endorsement, Johnson still faces three other candidates in the Aug. 12 primary election, an uncommon situation that could undermine the Republican Party’s political strength and give way to another term for incumbent Gov. Mark Dayton, a DFLer.
On Saturday, Johnson, a former member of the Minnesota House, beat out Dave Thompson, Marty Seifert and Rob Farnsworth after a long and drawn-out GOP convention in Rochester.
Despite edging ahead of both Seifert and Thompson by almost 17 percent during the third round of voting, Johnson failed to receive an endorsement before an intra-party drama began.
Thompson, a state senator from Lakeville who conceded after the third round of voting was announced, urged his fellow opponents to “think about whether running in a primary is for the good of the cause or for the elevation of self” and added his support of Johnson for the gubernatorial endorsement.
But before Thompson’s sentiment could settle with the crowd, Seifert began addressing his delegates as well, ultimately dismissing them from the convention to go home. But, Seifert did not concede to Johnson, instead telling the convention he plans on participating in the primaries regardless of an endorsement.
“And I know this upsets a lot of people, but I have decided that I am going to head to the primary to be one more person in the primary with the other two,” Seifert said. A mixture of boos and applause followed Seifert’s remarks.
Many politicians interpreted Seifert’s move as an attempt to force a no-endorsement during the GOP convention with the Republican Party chair Keith Downey calling Seifert’s political move “uncalled for.”
Two other GOP candidates, Kurt Zellers – a member of the Minnesota House of Representatives – and Scott Honour, did not seek the GOP endorsement and will join Johnson and Seifert in the August primary election.
Republican leaders frequently urged the GOP to unite under one candidate during the Saturday convention, including Seifert, who criticized Zellers and Honour for not participating in the endorsement process.
“As you move forward, you have two decisions to make,” Seifert said to the crowd. “Who can defeat the two people that are ignoring the process on August 12? And who can beat Mark Dayton on November 4? I believe I am that candidate.”
With Dayton easily winning the DFL endorsement in Duluth over the weekend, the GOP is now stuck with splitting support among four candidates
“We need to appeal to all the folks that came here. We need to appeal to the people who left here,” Johnson said at the convention. “And when we can bring all of them together, we can win.”
Earlier, the GOP also endorsed Mike McFadden for U.S. Senate, a decision that was made after almost 24 hours of ten rounds of voting. McFadden will run against the incumbent Democrat, Sen. Al Franken, in November.
Video above: Marty Seifert surprises delegates with his announcement that he will run in the Republican primary for Governor
Video below: Jeff Johnson speech after winning Republican endorsement for Minnesota Governor, and Mike McFadden acceptance speech after winning Republican endorsement for U.S. Senate.