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GOP 'flies-in' to Bemidji after state convention

Monte Draper | Bemidji Pioneer Recently endorsed GOP candidate for governor Jeff Johnson provides remarks at a campaign event Monday at Bemidji Regional Airport. Visible behind Johnson are (from left) Minnesota House Minority Leader Kurt Daudt, U.S. House candidate Torrey Westrom and recently endorsed candidate for U.S. Senate Mike McFadden.

BEMIDJI -- Minnesota Republicans vying for federal and statewide office flew into Bemidji on Monday as part of a "fly-around tour" stopping for public appearances at regional airports statewide.

Recently endorsed at the state Republican convention last weekend, businessman Mike McFadden and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson headlined the event, which was put on in the Bemidji Regional Airport for local supporters and members of the press.

McFadden, who hopes to become the GOP candidate against U.S. Sen. Al Franken, was still hoarse from politicking at the state convention in Rochester, where he narrowly beat out Chris Dahlberg for endorsement after a surprise 10 rounds of delegate voting that took two days to complete. Despite that, he said Monday the convention was "our party at its best".

"It was a unifying convention -- we didn't have Republicans beating up on other Republicans," he said.

McFadden was optimistic his campaign could attract bipartisan backers.

"I'm honored to have broad-based support," he said. "I can tell you, we're going to talk to a wide swath of Republicans in this state, we're going to turn out our base, we're going to fill the independents and we're going to get a lot of Reagan Democrats."

Johnson, who is aiming to be the Republican candidate against incumbent Gov. Mark Dayton, told reporters the primary in the race for governor would benefit the party rather than place it at a disadvantage.

"I'm hopeful that it will actually strengthen us because we'll be able to get our message out there even sooner," he said.

Kurt Zellers and Scott Honour also plan to run in the primary and Marty Seifert has filed to run for the seat, as well.

Johnson has previously expressed opposition to the anti-bullying law and the minimum wage increase passed this legislative session. In response to a question from the Pioneer, he said although he would not actively work as governor to get the two laws repealed, he would likely sign legislation repealing them if it were to be sent to him by the Legislature.

"I wouldn't work to repeal them," he said. "Now, if that were to land on my desk I probably would sign them, but I have stated really clearly what my priorities will be: it will be jobs, it will be education reform and it will be making government work and actually auditing the programs that we fund in our state..."

Johnson added Minnesota would likely have a "divided" government after the election with different parties controlling either the House of Representatives, the Senate, or the governor's office rather than one party controlling all three. In the event that happens, Johnson said, the governor should focus on a relatively narrow agenda.

"I think it's really important actually in divided government... that you have a governor who is focused on a few things rather than 27 things at one time," he said.

Zach Kayser
Zach Kayser covers local government and city issues for the Pioneer. He previously worked for the Wadena Pioneer Journal, and is an alumni of the University of Minnesota, Morris. 
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