BRAINERD, Minn. – With Minnesota’s gubernatorial election less than a year out, a new straw poll shows who the early favorite is among Republicans to replace Gov. Mark Dayton.
More than 300 Republican activists from across the state gathered in Brainerd this weekend for the Republican Party of Minnesota’s State Central Committee meeting, casting their ballot for their favorite gubernatorial candidate.
Leading the pack of Republican hopefuls is State Rep. Matt Dean (R-Dellwood), winning 30 percent of the vote.
“We are thrilled to have the support of so many of the Republican Party of Minnesota’s key activists around the state” Dean said in a statement. “There is still a long road ahead to 2018 but together we can get there if we are united in our commitment to our principles and to doing what it takes to bring our message to people across Minnesota.”
Dean has made healthcare a central issue of his campaign. In a recent campaign email, Dean vowed to eliminate MNSure, saying the federally subsidized public health insurance marketplace is “everything that is wrong with healthcare in Minnesota.” Dean’s focus appeared to hit home with GOP party leaders over the weekend.
Hot on the heels of Dean, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson came in a close second with 26 percent of the vote. During a candidate forum hosted by the Brainerd Lakes Chamber of Commerce on Friday, Johnson explained his reason for running.
“I’m running for a really simple reason–to take power away from government and give it back to the people of Minnesota,” Johnson said. “We’re going to change the attitude, the culture in government, from controlling and directing and punishing people and businesses to actually serving the people and the entrepreneurs who pay our salaries.”
Rounding out the top three was former Republican Party chairman Keith Downey. Downey, earning 17 percent of the vote, was quick to celebrate the placing.
“We’re very pleased with the results of today’s straw poll!” Downey said in a press release. We’ve made great progress in four short months, and I think we’re in exactly the right place.”
Four other Republican candidates participated in the poll. Woodbury Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens, the most recent Republican to announce a candidacy for governor, came in fourth. State. Sen. David Osmek (R-Mound) was fifth, Phillip Parrish was sixth, and Lance Johnson finished last.
While the straw poll gives an early hint at who may be on the ballot next November, candidates still have several months of campaigning left. Republican party officials will endorse their candidate for governor at their 2018 convention in June 2018.