After a convention marked with 'shenanigans', Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson won delegates' support to face DFL Gov. Mark Dayton in the fall.
"We have an endorsement," convention co-chair Rich Stanek, announced to huge cheers from the tired but feisty crowd.
Johnson will have to survive a heavily contested primary before he can get to Dayton. Former House Speaker Kurt Zellers, businessman Scott Honour and former House Minority Leader Marty Seifert will all vie in August for Republican votes.
Seifert's decision to run in a primary, and announcement late Saturday that he would release his delegates, caused huge upset in the convention hall. Enough activists remained in the hall for Johnson to capture the nod but more than 700 potential votes had already left.
Johnson promised he could become Minnesota's next governor.
"Mark Dayton is not going to know what hit him until the middle of December," he said.
Just a few minutes later as the Beatles "Come Together" played in the convention hall, delegates quickly filed out and went home.
Afterward, surrounded by enthusiastic backers clad in red, Johnson acknowleged the primary challenge before moving on to the general election.
"I would rather not have a primary, I'll be honest with you, that would be a better thing because we could focus everything on Mark Dayton and not be talking about each other, but the reality is that we're going to have a primary," he said. "My focus will be explaining to Republicans why I'm the strongest candidate to actually beat him and I think we will come through that just fine. I think we're going to have a really strong message."