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Giuliani Stephens picks rural lawmaker as running mate

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Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens introduced Rep. Jeff Backer as her running mate in the Republican contest for governor. Tim Pugmire|MPR News

Republican candidate for governor and Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens has picked a rural state legislator to be her lieutenant governor running mate.

Giuliani Stephens introduced Rep. Jeff Backer, R-Browns Valley, Wednesday during a state Capitol news conference. She said Backer brings strong leadership skills to the ticket.

“Jeff has led with common sense, conservative solutions in every position he has held,” Giuliani Stephens said.

Backer is serving his second term in the House. He also is a former mayor. Backer said both he and Giuliani Stephens work hard for their constituents on quality of life issues.

Backer was already envisioning a potential primary battle with former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty and a general election matchup with DFL Congressman Tim Walz.

“I’m confident our team has the new solutions and bold leadership to win the endorsement, win the primary and win the general election, defeating both of the D.C. Tim twins on the way to victory.”

Backer said he would seek reelection to the House if Giuliani Stephen does not win the Republican party endorsement at next month’s state convention. She has pledged to abide by that endorsement.

“Because we have the vision for the future, not the vision for the past, we believe we’re going to win,” he said.

Giuliani Stephens is the first GOP candidate to name a running mate. The other top candidates are Pawlenty and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson.

On the DFL side, Walz announced his selection of Peggy Flanagan back in October and is still the only DFL candidate for governor with a running mate. The other DFL candidates are Rep. Erin Murphy and state Auditor Rebecca Otto.

Giuliani Stephens said she remains an underdog heading into the Republican convention. But she believes many delegates remain undecided.

“We’ve been having an upward trajectory, we’ve had positive response and we continue to pick up delegates one at a time,” Giuliani Stephen said.