Former Rep. Bill Kuisle, left, and Jeff Johnson, at podium

Former Rep. Bill Kuisle, left, and Jeff Johnson, at podium

A farmer and former Rochester-area legislator is joining GOP gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson as his running mate.

Former Rep. Bill Kuisle will join Johnson’s ticket as he makes a final push to a make-or-break endorsing convention later this month 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.”

Kuisle said he was not looking to re-enter politics, but the chance to serve with Johnson persuaded him.

“It is the chance of a lifetime to run for lieutenant governor and I took it,” said Kuisle, 56.

Johnson is vying for the chance to take on DFL Gov. Mark Dayton, who is seeking a second term.

Johnson, 47, said his running mate brings strength in an area of the state where he is not as strong, and Kuisle's strong legislative experience will make him a major asset in the administration.

Johnson is the first candidate not to select a female running mate that brings gender balance to the ticket. He said he did not make the pick based on gender, race or geographic region of the state.

“I don’t believe women won't vote for someone because they didn’t pick a female lieutenant governor,” Johnson said.

Kuisle represented Rochester area in the Minnesota House from 1996 until 2004, rising to become chairman of the House Transportation Finance Committee.

He had served as an Olmsted County Commissioner for six years before winning his House seat.

In surveying the political landscape under Dayton, Kuisle said he was most unnerved by the business tax increases imposed 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.”

Johnson has vowed to abide by the GOP endorsement, making the next two weeks the most important in his campaign so far. He faces state Sen. Dave Thomson, former House Rep. Marty Seifert, former Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Orono businessman Scott Honour.

Kuisle served with Seifert and calls him “a close personal friend” and is considered a mentor to Zellers.

“I hope everybody can remain friends afterwards,” he said.

Kuisle is a cancer survivor with a wife, Lisa, and two young children, Jennifer and Isaac.

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