Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty lost to Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson late Tuesday evening in the Minnesota gubernatorial GOP primary election.
Johnson edged out a victory over Pawlenty with more than 52 percent of the vote at the time the race was called with more than 67 percent of precincts reporting.
Pawlenty was governor of Minnesota from 2003 to 2011, winning re-election in 2006. Pawlenty was a relatively popular governor of a somewhat liberal state, but quickly lost support after the Interstate-35W bridge collapsed in Minneapolis on Aug. 1, 2007, during morning rush hour. Thirteen people died and Pawlenty was blamed for cutting infrastructure spending under his tenure as governor.
Pawlenty also ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, but dropped out in August — well before the Iowa caucus in January — following a third-place-showing in the Ames Straw Poll.
Pawlenty raised $2.1 million, MinnPost reports, while Johnson raised just half a million.
Johnson served in the Minnesota House of Representatives, where he was elected assistant majority leader, from 2000 to 2006. Johnson was the 2014 Republican gubernatorial candidate, but lost to the incumbent and current Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.
Dayton won’t seek re-election due his battle with prostate cancer, which caused him to collapse during a State of the State Address on Jan. 23. (RELATED: MN Governor Calls GOP Tax Cuts ‘Crumbs,’ Vetos Bill)
Minnesota is sometimes labeled a “purple” state, given its almost equal mix of Republicans and Democrats. Democrats in the state, technically called the Democratic-Farmer Labor Party (DFL), have a long history of narrowly defeating Republicans in state-wide elections like presidential, gubernatorial and senate elections.
If Johnson wins the gubernatorial race on Nov. 6 — and if the GOP keeps control of the State House and wins one seat in the Senate — it would be the first time the party had complete control of the state government in half a century. The GOP are currently tied with the DFL in seats in the state senate, both controlling 33 seats while one is vacant.
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