Republican Candidate Johnson Eyes Greater Minnesota to Win Governor's Race

Updated: 10/09/2014 2:24 PM
Created: 08/21/2014 11:09 PM
By: John Doetkott

(ABC 6 News) -- With just 75 days left before election day, the campaign for governor is heating up.

On Thursday, GOP candidate Jeff Johnson called a press conference challenging Governor Mark Dayton to a series of 13 debates, asking at least two be held at the Minnesota State Fair.

Governor Dayton has said he’ll agree to six debates.

While both candidates will focus on connecting with voters at the “Great Minnesota Get Together,” which started Thursday, Johnson said he wants to put an emphasis on getting together with greater Minnesota.

"I think greater Minnesota, both southern Minnesota and western, maybe to a lesser extent the iron range, are going to decide the race,” Johnson said.

On Thursday night, Johnson visited with voters at Stewartville's Dog Days of Summer celebration along with his running mate, Bill Kuisle, a southern Minnesota native and longtime state representative.

Both said it's the areas outside the metro that will be the key to the election.

"Greater Minnesota has always been one of those independents, you have to appeal to the independents,” Kuisle said. “And that's what we have been concentrating on since the endorsement, and we concentrated on before the primary."

But both Johnson and Kuisle said wherever they campaign, the election will likely come down to jobs and the economy.

Minnesota's unemployment rate is below the national average, but Johnson said he fells many people are underemployed, something he wants to change.

"We need to create an economy in this state where people are actually working in jobs that they're satisfied with, that are paying them a level that is equal to their education,” Johnson said. “That can be done, but it's going to take a little bit of work."

The latest polls show Johnson trailing Gov. Dayton by between 6 and 8 percent, but Johnson said he's actually thrilled to be in that position given what he's spent on advertising.