Claiming the middle ground in a race with DFL and Republican candidates, businessman Tom Horner won endorsement for governor Saturday from the Independence Party, which has played crucial roles in the outcome of recent Minnesota gubernatorial elections.

Describing a state paralyzed by partisan turmoil in the midst of a budget crisis, Horner told party activists, "Minnesota needs an independent-thinking governor to break free of the status quo."

Horner prevailed over four other candidates to secure the endorsement on the first ballot, but faces a primary runoff against at least two of them in August.

Horner won 68 percent of the votes of party activists at their convention in Bloomington to secure the party's endorsement.