Abby Simons and Rachel E. Stassen-Berger
Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson will likely become the endorsed Republican candidate to take on DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, but faces a four-way primary first.
Moments after the third round balloting showed Johnson in a 10-point lead over Minnesota Sen. Dave Thompson and 2010 gubernatorial candidate Marty Seifert, Thompson took the stage to withdraw, imploring delegates to support Johnson.
"I could keep going but I see no reasonable path to victory and I don't want to attempt to lock this convention up," Thompson said to wild cheers from delegates. "I would implore my opponents to think about whether running in a primary is for the good of the cause or for the elevation of self."
The message was intended for Rep. Kurt Zellers and businessman Scott Honour, who skipped the convention to run in a primary. Immediately afterward, Seifert took the stage and said he too would run in a primary and released his delegates.
"Instead of dragging things out," he said. "I am going to decide that my delegates can be released to go home."
The decision was met by boos and jeers from much of the crowd. If more than half of the 2,000 delegates leave, there can be no endorsement.
"Where's the integrity?" shouted Jacquelyn America of Minneapolis, throwing down a sign she was carrying. "This does not help our cause. It's maddening."
Seifert's speech enraged others as well.
Republican Party Chairman Keith Downey addressed the riled crowd and asked them to stay. He called Seifert's speech "uncalled for" because it was essentially an attempt to force the convention not to endorse. He said when Seifert was permitted to speak to the convention crowd, officials had expected him to withdraw, not outline a strategy of his own.
"I call shenanigans," said Neil Lynch, a Wayzata delegate with the Republican Liberty Caucus. He said those around him were disappointed, upset and yelling at Seifert as he left the stage.
Jennifer DeJournett, president of Voice of Conservative Women said: "I'm extremely disappointed in the poor sportsmanship of Marty Seifert." Her group had previously endorsed Seifert's running mate Pam Myhra when she ran for House. Now, DeJournett said, she suggested Myhra should quit his campaign.
Here are the Round 3 numbers:
Jeff Johnson: 811 votes, 44.5%
Marty Seifert: 503 votes, 27.6%
Dave Thompson: 504 votes, 27.6%