State GOP candidates stress unity after convention

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Minnesota Republicans shifted from convention to campaign today, stressing party unity and downplaying the potential pitfalls of a looming August primary.

GOP leaders appeared at a morning news conference along with their recently-endorsed candidates for statewide office. Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson was the party’s pick for governor, and businessman Mike McFadden won the endorsement for the U.S. Senate.

Republican Party of Minnesota chair Keith Downey praised all the candidates who won party backing.

“I think the Republican Party of Minnesota is more unified, more energized and stronger than we have been in a long time,” Downey said.

In the governor’s race, Johnson is facing a four-way primary contest on Aug. 12. Scott Honour, Marty Seifert and Kurt Zellers are the other GOP candidates for governor.  Johnson said he believes the endorsement matters but doesn’t plan to criticize the other GOP candidates.

“I have no intent of being negative about the other three in the race," Johnson said. “I’m running against Mark Dayton.”

In the U.S. Senate race, McFadden had intended all along to run in the primary. His endorsement win, which came after 10 ballots that stretched over two days, took many by surprise. McFadden could still face a primary challenge from Jim Abeler, who is still considering whether to keep running.

McFadden said he’s ready to take on incumbent Democrat Al Franken.

“We have a better message,” McFadden said. “We have to get this country back on the road to growth and prosperity.”

The other GOP candidates at the event were attorney general candidate Scott Newman, state auditor candidate Randy Gilbert and secretary of state candidate Dan Severson.

Democrats endorsed incumbents Lori Swanson and Rebecca Otto for attorney general and for auditor over the weekend. Rep. Steve Simon of Hopkins won the DFL nod for secretary of state.

The Republican candidates were scheduled to make eight more stops around the state on their two-day, post-convention  media tour.

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