DFLer Tim Walz and Republican Jeff Johnson emerged from their respective primaries to earn a spot on the November ballot for Governor. On Tuesday, both the Democratic-Farmer-Labor and Republican parties held competitive primaries for the nomination for governor, with Congressman Tim Walz, State Rep. Erin Murphy and Attorney General Lori Swanson facing off on the DFL side, and Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson taking on ex-Governor Tim Pawlenty for the GOP nomination.
The results were somewhat surprising. Although Walz was viewed as a strong candidate for the nomination, Swanson held a narrow lead in the few public polls that were released ahead of Tuesday’s primary, with Murphy trailing the others by 10 points or more. That said, polling in primaries is notoriously difficult and a large share of undecided voters were present in all of the polling conducted.
Walz was buoyed by his home district in southern Minnesota, but also achieved strong support in the metro area and central Minnesota. Murphy won the largest share of the vote within the cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, but Walz’s strength in the suburbs led to him winning six of the seven counties in the metro area, with Murphy winning her home county of Ramsey by around 3,700 votes.
On the GOP side, many expected that Pawlenty’s high name recognition and deep campaign coffers would allow him to cruise to an easy primary win. But when the tallies started coming in, Johnson established an early lead which never dipped under 8 percentage points. This will be the second time Johnson appears on the general election ballot for governor after losing to Governor Mark Dayton in 2014.
Tuesday’s results set up a head-to-head general election matchup between Walz and Johnson. Attendees of the CGMC’s gubernatorial forum in Mankato got a live preview of this race. You can re-watch that event, and find out where the candidates stand on key issues like LGA, by clicking here.
Other notes from the primary:

  • Voter turnout was high, with nearly 23 percent of the state’s eligible voters casting a ballot. About 16 percent of the ballots were cast before Tuesday.
  • In the First Congressional District, Jim Hagedorn defeated State Sen. Carla Nelson to become the GOP’s nominee. Had Nelson won and been elected to Congress in November, it would have triggered a special election for her State Senate seat.
  • Of the seven incumbent state legislators who faced primary challenges from within their own parties this year, six won their primaries and will appear on the November ballot. Incumbent Rep. Bob Loonan (R–Shakopee) was the lone exception. He lost the GOP primary in District 55A to challenger Erick Mortensen.
  • The five-way DFL primary for attorney general proved less competitive than some expected, with Congressman Keith Ellison cruising to a victory with 49.8 percent of the vote. His closest challenger, State Rep. Deb Hilstrom, garnered just 19.1 percent. The race was rocked in the final days by domestic abuse allegations against Ellison, but with murky details surrounding the allegations and the large number of candidates in the race, he was still able to prevail.