GOP candidate for Governor Jeff Johnson was pleased as he looked at race results showing him with a solid lead Tuesday night / Glen Stubbe, Star Tribune

Republican-endorsed candidate for governor Jeff Johnson won the GOP primary and will face DFL Gov. Mark Dayton in the fall.

With about 75 percent of the vote counted, he had about 30 percent of the vote. His nearest rival, former House Speaker Kurt Zellers, had about 24 percent. Former Rep. Marty Seifert and businessman Scott Honour each had about 20 percent.

Before 11 p.m. both the Associated Press and the Star Tribune declared him the winner.

Shortly thereafter, he gave a victory speech at his Plymouth victory party.

"Mark Dayton is a fairly popular incumbent and a lot of people are going to say it's going to be really hard to beat him but we can do that," said Johnson, stressing that they could do it by being united, raising a lot of money, and putting forth a vision that appeals to Republicans and non-Republicans alike.

"I have a vision of a state where politicians understand that taxpayers work really, really had for our money and we treat it just as carefully as those coming out of our pockets, which ain't happening in St. Paul," he said.

Dayton said he called Johnson Tuesday night to congralate him.

"I look forward to engaging in a constructive discussion about the issues important to Minnesotans over the next twelve weeks," he said in a statement.

Earlier Johnson had already made plans for the future.

"It'll be a whole new phase tomorrow," said Johnson. "I think I can present a very positive alternative vision to Gov. Dayton regarding what my priorities can be - how we can do better with respect to jobs."

He said he's not worried about Republican voters staying divided after the four-way race.

"Will there be a handful of people that we'll have to work on? Yes, but overall I feel very good about that."

On Wednesday, the Republican Party plans to hold a news conference with all four GOP candidates for governor as a show of party unity.

The race lacked much bite among the four Republican candidates and well under spent the DFL primary for governor back in 2010.

In defeat, Zellers said: "I love Minnesota. The only party I'm sad about is: I won't be able to sell Minnesota tot he rest of the country."

To run for governor, Zellers decided not to run for re-election to the House.

Maya Rao contributed to this report.


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