By John Celock
The 2014 Republican nominee for Minnesota governor is seeking a second try for the governor’s mansion.
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson announced last week that he would make a second bid for governor next year. The entry of Johnson, a former state lawmaker, can likely clear the GOP field in the race to succeed two-term Gov. Mark Dayton (D), who is not seeking reelection. Dayton defeated Johnson in 2014 50 percent to 44 percent.
“We’ll create an attitude in government that we’re here to serve you not control,” Johnson said in a video announcing his candidacy.
Johnson’s video was staged as a cocktail party featuring various characters portraying various interests in state government including the public employee unions and the Metropolitan Council, a regional planning and transportation agency in the Minneapolis-St. Paul region. Johnson comes into the party to outline his approach to government, saying that he will change the culture in St. Paul.
“Sorry folks the party’s over. What you all have been doing in this state the past few years is devastating to average Minnesotans,” Johnson said. “Your belief that you know better than Minnesotans how they should spend their money and live their lives led to skyrocketing insurance premiums, more traffic congestion, stagnant wages and Minnesota’s own swap of cronyism and political favor. Well enough is enough.”
Johnson said that he would institute a property tax cap and an automatic tax refund if the state collects more taxes than it needs, along with ending state mandates on schools, eliminating the Metropolitan Council and shifting transportation funding to roads and buses from trains.
An employment lawyer by profession, Johnson served six years in the state House of Representatives and was election to the Hennepin County Commission in 2008. Johnson currently serves as the chairman of the Commission’s Public Safety Committee. Hennepin County, home to Minneapolis, is Minnesota’s largest county.
Ramsay County Commissioner Blake Huffman and state Rep. Matt Dean have already entered the field for the GOP nomination with state House Speaker Kurt Daudt mentioned as a potential candidate. Johnson’s 2014 candidacy and popularity with state Republicans make him a potential field-clearing candidate for the nomination.
On the Democratic side, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, state Auditor Rebecca Otto, U.S. Rep. Tim Walz and state Rep. Erin Murphy have entered the gubernatorial field. U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan and state Attorney General Lori Swanson are considered potential Democratic gubernatorial candidates. Lt. Gov. Tina Smith (D), who had been considered a frontrunner in the governor’s race, has already announced that would not run to succeed Dayton.