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Former gubernatorial candidate campaigns for Johnson

Former Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner stopped in Rochester Monday morning kicking off a statewide tour in support of Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson.

Former gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner, center, endorses Jeff Johnson for Minnesota governor at a news conference at the Government Center in Rochester Monday morning. Also pictured, from left, are Sen. Dave Senjem, Sen. Carla Nelson, Johnson's running mate Bill Kuisle and Breanna Bly, who is running for the Minnesota House of Representatives District 26-A.

Former Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Tom Horner stumped for Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson in Rochester on Monday.

At a news conference at Rochester City Hall, Horner talked about his decision to endorse Johnson over DFL Gov. Mark Dayton.

"Certainly, Jeff and I don't agree on everything. But we're in a political climate where we hear from a lot of Minnesotans, 'Why can't they just work together? Why can't they just get along?' And I think it's going to take a person like Jeff Johnson to reach across the aisle," Horner said.

The Twin Cities public relations executive was joined by Johnson's running mate, Bill Kuisle; Rochester state Sens. Carla Nelson and Dave Senjem and Republican House District 26A candidate Breanna Bly.

Horner announced his endorsement of Johnson last week. His visit to Rochester was the first stop on a multi-city campaign tour for the Plymouth Republican. Horner planned to stop in Mankato later today. Tomorrow he will be in Duluth and on Wednesday he plans to stop in Bemidji and St. Cloud.


Prior to joining the Independence Party, Horner was a member of the Republican Party. When he ran in 2010 against Dayton and Republican gubernatorial candidate Tom Emmer, Horner received 12 percent of the vote statewide. In Olmsted County, he netted 15 percent of the vote.

Horner said he first met with Johnson two years ago for lunch to talk about running for governor. Over time, he said he became convinced Johnson was the best candidate for the job. He said Johnson is best equipped to deal with the challenges facing Minnesota, including the growing number of low-skill, low-wage jobs and the need to address the educational achievement gap.

"It's those kind of issues that we ought to deal with. There's just no evidence that the current administration has any clear, cohesive, comprehensive path to creating those solutions," Horner said.

Asked about why he did not endorse Independence Party gubernatorial candidate Hannah Nicollet, Horner said he was hopeful that Nicollet would be able to have a voice and platform to offer ideas, but that doesn't appear to be happening. Nicollet failed to raise enough money to qualify for the state's public campaign subsidy. But Horner said he would have backed Johnson regardless.

Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin said Horner's decision to endorse Johnson isn't unexpected given his roots in the GOP party.

"It's not altogether surprising that a Republican would endorse another Republican," Martin said.

He added that "if Jeff Johnson is banking on Tom Horner delivering a certain amount of votes for him and putting him over the top, he should look at the 2010 election results."

But Kuisle, for one, said it's a huge deal that Horner has given Johnson his seal of approval. He said it is critical that the campaign not only unite Republicans but also appeal to independent voters.


Kuisle added, "Bringing in Tom Horner is so huge and we are so grateful for Tom looking at both candidates and deciding that Jeff was definitely the best one for the job in leading the state forward."

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