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Johnson wins GOP governor race; other primary results in

The Republican who grew up in Detroit Lakes and now is a Hennepin County commissioner declared a primary election victory Tuesday night, setting up a race with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton in the general election this fall.

Jeff Johnson was getting about 30 percent of the vote in a rare four-way Republican primary election race late Tuesday. His lead, although slightly shrinking through the night, was strong enough to give him the GOP nomination. His primary win was declared shortly before 11 p.m.

With 70 percent of the precincts tallied, unofficial returns showed the three other major candidates were close: Kurt Zellers with 24 percent, Scott Honour with 22 percent and Marty Seifert with 20 percent.

The GOP governor's race was in Tuesday's spotlight.

Johnson, 47, a former state lawmaker, received the Republican state convention's endorsement in May.

After he was named the winner Tuesday, Johnson thanked supporters and introduced his parents, who made the trek from Detroit Lakes to the celebration.

"Now it is time we finished the job," he said about the general election campaign.

Zellers, whose running mate was Dean Simpson, of Perham, said Tuesday night that low voter turnout at the primary may have hurt his numbers, though “Perham, Wadena and New York Mills got us really close.”

“It was a really close field with a lot of really good candidates,” he said of the four-way GOP race. He, along with the other two major candidates, are encouraging their supporters to get behind Johnson.

“There’s no candidate on our side who isn’t a thousand times better than Mark Dayton,” Zellers said. “We’ve got to make Minnesota a more prosperous and vibrant state.”

The four GOP gubernatorial candidates engaged in a few debates near the end of the campaign, and while some sparks flew, they generally reserved their criticism for Dayton.

Zellers has no plans to run for office again in the future.

Simpson was unavailable for comment before press time late Tuesday.

Little known candidate Merrill Anderson also was on the GOP governor ballot and received little support.

Dayton faced token primary opposition from perennial candidates Leslie Davis and Bill Dahn.

Democratic-endorsed secretary of state candidate Steve Simon held a solid lead over two frequent candidates who did little campaigning, Dick Franson and Gregg Iverson. Unknowns David Singleton and Bob Helland were close early Tuesday night in the Independence Party race.

Other primary results:

U.S. Senate: Mike McFadden (Republican) easily defeated his four challengers; Steve Carlson (Independence) narrowly beat out four others from his party; and Al Franken (Democratic) easily beat a token challenger.

7th District Court 27 Judge: As the top vote-getter in the primary, incumbent Steven Cahill will advance to the general election. He will face the candidate with the second-highest number of votes, Kenneth Kohler. Cheryl Duysen came in a close third, and Terry Graff fourth.

Otter Tail County Recorder: With 40.37 percent of the vote, Brian Armstrong will face off against Carol Schmaltz in the general election. Schmaltz narrowly defeated Kim Mark, 30.67 to 28.98 percent.

State Auditor: Rebecca Otto (Democratic), the incumbent candidate, easily beat challenger Matt Entenza. She will face Republican candidate Randy Gilbert and Independence Party candidate Patrick Dean on the general election ballot in November.

Attorney General: Scott Newman (Republican) defeated Sharon Anderson. He will face Lori Swanson (Democratic, incumbent) and Brandan Borgos (Independence) in the general election.

Forum News Service reporter Don Davis contributed to this story.

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson joined the Perham Focus more than five years ago, and has since worn many hats as writer, editor and page designer. She lives in rural Frazee with her husband, Dan, their one-year-old son, Simon, and their yellow lab, Louisa. 

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