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In GOP governor’s race, Rubio backs Hennepin County commissioner

MINNEAPOLIS -- Florida Sen. Marco Rubio announced he is backing Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson in the Minnesota Republican’s second bid to become governor.

The endorsement could add some national attention to the battle among Republicans to succeed DFL Gov. Mark Dayton. Johnson was Rubio’s Minnesota chairman when the Floridian ran for president last year and helped Rubio win Minnesota’s Republican caucuses. Minnesota was the only state Rubio won in the GOP primary.

Rubio and Johnson both praised the other’s conservative values in a news release Tuesday.

“Republicans in Minnesota are extremely close to breaking through statewide, and with Jeff Johnson as the nominee, I believe they will,” Rubio said in the release.

Minnesota Republicans have not won a statewide office since 2006, though President Donald Trump came within a few percentage points of winning the state in the general election last year, when voters gave Republicans a majority in both chambers of the Legislature.

Johnson campaign manager Justin Arnold, who also worked for Rubio’s presidential campaign last year, said the campaign is working to find a date on which the senator can visit Minnesota to support Johnson in person.

Johnson faces a competitive race for the Republican endorsement. State Sen. Dave Osmek, state Rep. Matt Dean and former Republican Party Chairman Keith Downey are also vying for next year’s GOP nod.

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