Jeff Johnson: I want Trump’s backing

Jeff Johnson, the endorsed Republican candidate for Minnesota governor, said Tuesday he'll head to Duluth next week to be on hand for President Donald Trump's visit.

The Hennepin County commissioner said he doesn't yet know if he'll have a formal role in the presidential campaign rally. Trump is coming to promote congressional candidate Pete Stauber in the 8th District.

But Johnson said he hopes Trump takes a stand in the governor's race, too, as the president has in some other states with contested GOP primaries.

"I would very much welcome Donald Trump's support, and I think that it would raise the visibility of this race a lot in the state to people who are maybe not paying much attention," Johnson said in an interview.

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Johnson is competing with former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty in an August primary for the party nomination.

Pawlenty hasn't committed to attending the Trump rally. Pawlenty has said he voted for the president and has expressed support for his policies after questioning Trump's fitness for the job late in the 2016 race. Pawlenty said he voted absentee for Trump and weeks later withdrew his public support for the nominee after a videotape of Trump making lewd comments surfaced. Pawlenty at the time called Trump "unsound, uninformed, unhinged and unfit."

Johnson was initially a supporter and lead Minnesota backer of Florida Sen. Marco Rubio in the Republican presidential primaries that year and then shifted to Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. But Johnson said he "was with Trump once he was our candidate."

"I shared my concerns about him but said he is a much better choice for the state of Minnesota and the country than Hillary Clinton and very vocally told Republicans to vote for him, and Tim did the opposite," Johnson said.