Republican Sen. Dave Thompson picked fellow state Sen. Michelle Benson to join him as his gubernatorial running mate, they announced on Thursday.

"I told Dave months before I announced that I would do anything I could to help him win. I didn't realize how seriously he was going to take that promise," Benson said.

Thompson and Benson were both elected to the Minnesota Senate in 2010, when for the first time in a generation Republicans won a majority in the upper chamber, and both hail from Republican-leaning districts within 45-minutes drive of Minnesota's St. Paul Capitol. He is from Lakeville and she is from Ham Lake.

Sens. Thompson and Benson

Sens. Thompson and Benson

Thompson pledged, as have many gubernatorial candidates who came before, that if he wins Benson would be an integral part of his administration.

"I would really like to be a transformational governor in this area," he said.

He highlighted her leading role in health care policy, as well as their philosophical commonality, as key reasons he picked her. Benson is the ranking Republican member of the Senate's Health, Human Services and Housing committee and have been a vocal critic of the MNsure health exchange roll out.

Thompson stepped down from his Senate leadership post to run in the governor's race. Benson said she was undecided whether she would leave her post as Assistant Senate Minority Leader now that Thompson has tapped her to run with him.

Thompson is the first gubernatorial candidate of either party to announce a pick for lieutenant governor. A few weeks ago, current Lt. Gov. Yvonne Prettner Solon announced she would not run with DFL Gov. Mark Dayton as he vies for re-election.

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