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The wide-open Republican fight to become the next Minnesota governor intensified Wednesday as one candidate chose a running mate and another put $250,000 of his personal fortune into his campaign.
GOP gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson selected Rochester farmer and former Rep. Bill Kuisle as his lieutenant governor pick, coming less than two weeks before a make-or-break endorsing convention in Rochester.
“Bill has a deep understanding of state government and vast policy and real-world experience,” said Johnson, a Hennepin County commissioner. “As a husband, father, farmer and small-business owner, Bill will help me bring conservative common-sense solutions to St. Paul.”
Meanwhile, Orono businessman Scott Honour loaned his campaign an additional $250,00 as part of a major fundraising push for the next phase of the campaign. He also picked up the endorsement of former U.S. Rep. Chip Cravaack, a Republican.
“He is a business leader and will take on the tough problems facing our state rather than doing what is politically convenient just to get re-elected,” Cravaack said in a statement Wednesday. “Scott hasn’t spent his career in politics, and electing him will send a message to career politicians that it’s the end of business as usual, that it is time for new leaders and a new direction for our state.”
Johnson and Honour are among five GOP rivals vying for the chance to take on DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, who is seeking a second term.
Honour says he will press on to the Aug. 12 primary, but Johnson has promised to abide by the GOP endorsement in Rochester at the end of the month. That makes the next 10 days the most crucial of Johnson’s campaign.
Johnson, 47, praised Kuisle’s legislative experience and said he embodies “mainstream, traditional conservatives.”
Said Kuisle, 56: “It is the chance of a lifetime to run for lieutenant governor and I took it.” He represented the Rochester area in the Minnesota House from 1996 until 2004, rising to become chairman of the House Transportation Finance Committee. Before that, he served as an Olmsted County commissioner for six years.
In surveying the political landscape under Dayton, Kuisle said he was most unnerved by the business tax increases that directly hit farm machinery repair.
“Rural Minnesota is really at a crossroads,” he said. “Those business-to-business taxes really hurt Minnesota. … Like a lot of rural Minnesotans, I’m fed up with Mark Dayton.”
Former Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers plans to announce his running mate Thursday morning.
Lakeville Sen. Dave Thompson selected state Sen. Michelle Benson of Ham Lake for his ticket. State Rep. Pam Myhra of Burnsville is running with former Rep. Marty Seifert of Marshall.
Seifert convened a conference call with reporters Wednesday and said that he is confident of winning the GOP’s endorsement but that he will not rule out running in the August primary without it.
Seifert, who lost the GOP gubernatorial endorsement in 2010, said that he’s “open-minded” about the possibility of honoring the endorsement but that he is unlikely to decide until next week, when the convention’s nominations committee meets.
Staff writer Patrick Condon contributed to this report.