ST. PAUL, Minn. – The Republican race for governor experienced an unexpected shake up Thursday when leading candidate state Rep. Matt Dean dropped out of the race and endorsed Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson.
Dean did not give a detailed explanation for his decision, instead alluding to a lack of resources.
“We must move forward so that our candidate can quickly scale up with the coalitions and resources necessary to win the general election,” Dean said in a press release. “To that end, after prayerful consideration and discussion with my family, I decided to suspend my campaign, and support Jeff.”
With less than two weeks before the Feb. 6 precinct caucuses, Dean’s withdrawal comes as a surprise. Dean has been considered one of the frontrunners in the GOP race for governor, winning a straw poll of party activists in December. Johnson, who Dean is now “enthusiastically” supporting, has been one of Dean’s biggest competitors.
“Jeff is by far the superior candidate in the rest of the Republican field,” Dean said. “He has the dignity and judgment and conservative values to be a governor we will be proud of. And he has the political chops to get elected.”
In a recent straw poll conducted by the Star Tribune, Johnson led the pack of Republican hopefuls with 24 percent of the vote. Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Daudt, who has yet to announce a bid for governor, came in second place with 14 percent. Dean won 2 percent and former Republican Party chairman Keith Downey earned 1 percent. Over 54 percent of those surveyed are undecided.
Dean’s support for Johnson is expected to give the candidate a boost going into the upcoming caucuses, however, there is still a long road to becoming the party’s nominee. Republican party officials will endorse their candidate for governor at their 2018 convention in June 2018, and then Republican hopefuls must face the party primary in August.
Dean also announced Thursday that he does not intend to run for re-election to his House seat, however, he did not rule out running for another office.