Johnson says he is more conservative than Pawlenty

NEW ULM — Republican gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson visited New Ulm Tuesday to discuss his campaign a week ahead of the primary.

Johnson received the Republican Party endorsement, but is being challenged by former Republican governor Tim Pawlenty who is seeking a third term.

Asked how he is different from Pawlenty, Johnson said he is more conservative and he will bring more fundamental change to Minnesota. He said Pawlenty did some good things for the state but he only changed things around the edges and made no changes to attitude or culture.

In terms of being the better Republican candidate, Johnson said he brings an enthusiastic and united base.

“He will have a lot of work to get the base out to vote for him,” Johnson said. “Without the base it is impossible to win in November.”

In addition, Johnson worried that if Pawlenty was the nominee, the governor’s race would be a referendum on his past two terms.

“It’s really hard to win that race because people want to look forward; they don’t want to look back,” he said.

Johnson said he believes Minnesotans want a straightforward leader and he felt Pawlenty flip-flopped on issues.

“Are you trying to make all sides believe you agree with them or are you telling people what you think?” Johnson said.

In regards to Trump, Johnson said he did not always agree with the president, but he supported him. Pawlenty said he didn’t support Trump, but after his victory in 2016, Pawlenty said he did vote for Trump.

“I think people get tired of that,” he said. “Look at Paul Wellstone. He was far more liberal than your average Minnesotan but he was pretty popular because people appreciated that they knew where he was and he wasn’t going to waffle around.”

Johnson said one of the areas he disagrees with Trump is his claims that the media is the enemy of the state. Johnson said he has gotten frustrated with a media bias on the federal level, but said he would never suggest the media in general was an enemy of the people.

On questions of immigration, Johnson said there was little a governor could do, but said he wanted to follow the law and is against turning Minnesota into a sanctuary state. For this reason he did not want to abolish ICE because they needed to enforce the laws. He wanted to move immigration to a merit-based system.

Johnson’s message this election year is he plans to overthrow the status quo. He said the top issue facing Minnesota is the attitude of government.

“We have a culture that has become arrogant in many of our agencies,” Johnson said. “They seem to believe it is their job to control and direct people as opposed to serving them.”

He cited the DNR, MPCA, BWSR and DHS as agencies with control issues.

Johnson said many farmers have spoken to him about the MPCA’s unreasonable regulations.

“Everyone I talked to wants clean water,” Johnson said. “Farmers should be included in that solution.”

Johnson’s hope is to allow the people being regulated to have a say in the decision making. He admitted in some cases the state might need to clean house in regards to agencies unwilling to serve the people.

“I have no illusions that it will be easy to change a culture in a bureaucracy the size of state government,” Johnson said. “It will take years but we have to start now.”

This is Johnson’s second campaign for governor in four years. He ran against Gov. Mark Dayton in 2014. Asked how this campaign is different, Johnson said he is running for an open seat. Incumbent governors traditionally do no lose re-election in Minnesota. Johnson believed that is the biggest change outside of his control, but also feels there is a change in the outlook and attitude of the electorate.

“Four years ago I heard a lot of people say things are going all right, and we’re not going to change horses mid-stream,” he said.

Now there is a desire for change.

“People are unhappy with the attitude they are seeing in government. They are unhappy with the some of the incompetence or scandal in government,” he said.

Johnson believes Minnesotans are looking for someone like him to disrupt the status quo.