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Gubernatorial hopeful visits Perham

Jeff Johnson, right, who is hoping to win the Republican nomination in a bid for Minnesota Governor in the next election, met with local members of his party during a meeting in Perham on Monday. Pictured with him is Minnesota House Representative Bud Nornes and Otter Tail County Republican Party Chairperson Sue Nelson. Elizabeth Huwe/FOCUS

Jeff Johnson, one of five candidates vying for the Republican nomination in the race for Minnesota governor, visited Perham on Sept. 16 to gather support for his bid.

Johnson is a Detroit Lakes native who graduated from Concordia College in Moorhead with an economics degree and went to law school at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C.

Throughout his career, Johnson has worked at Cargill, been a self-employed business owner, served as a Minnesota State Representative and been on the Hennepin County Board. He announced his intention to run for governor in May.

He said he decided to run because, “I really feel that we’re headed in the wrong direction as a state right now. I’m not seeing the leadership out of the governor that I think we need in Minnesota.”

Enhancing the state’s business climate, fixing the achievement gap in public schools, and eliminating state-funded programs that he feels are not producing results are Johnson’s main campaign goals.

“Right now, Minnesota is creating fewer new businesses than any state in the country. We came in last place with new startups,” said Johnson, citing a recent Kauffman Foundation study. “We’re losing our entrepreneurs to North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wisconsin. We shouldn’t be, because Minnesota is a better place to live.”

“We’ve made it so unwelcome to start a business here that they’re going to other states,” Johnson continued. “We can’t sustain that over time. It might not affect us all that much in the next year or two, but it will affect greatly the next generation in 10 or 20 years.”

Johnson is also concerned about high school graduation rates for students of color.

“That is the worst in the nation also, in Minnesota,” said Johnson. “It has been, on-and-off, for the last 30 years. We’ve been throwing money at the problem and wringing our hands about it for decades. But we really haven’t changed anything.”

In order to begin solving this problem, Johnson suggested targeted school choices and creating more parental empowerment in the system, “Particularly in those areas where the schools are failing the students. That’s the only way I think we start closing that gap.”

Finally, Johnson proposed an audit of state-funded human service programs.

“The programs that prove they’re actually doing what we say we want them to do, we’ll continue to fund, maybe even bolster them,” said Johnson. “But, the ones that don’t, and there are a lot of them, we need to end those and really focus the dollars.”

“Setting aside partisan politics, I think people are looking for government to spend their money wisely and effectively. A lot of people don’t seem to feel that is happening right now,” said Johnson.

Elizabeth Huwe,