Republican Jeff Johnson has the tools and temperament to be an effective counterweight to Minnesota’s DFL-dominated Legislature. He should be elected governor, replacing Mark Dayton, who has not demonstrated the convictions or leadership Minnesotans expect from the state’s chief executive.
Johnson went to high school in Detroit Lakes and is a graduate of Concordia College, Moorhead. Those roots in northwestern Minnesota, combined with experience in city life and the suburbs, uniquely qualify him to be governor. His experience as a member of the Legislature and as a county commissioner further deepens his qualifications and equips him with an expansive perspective.
Johnson is an unapologetic business-oriented conservative. If elected, his hard right positions on some key issues will have to be moderated. For instance, it is highly unlikely he would be able to sever Minnesota from Common Core school standards, or eliminate the increasingly popular MNsure health care system. Nonetheless, his critical voice will stimulate necessary debates that thus far have gained no traction in the Dayton administration or the Legislature.
For his part, Dayton’s leadership style has been reactive, rather than visionary. For example, explanations of his role in the rocky rollout of MNsure have been just short of lame. His late entry into a flood protection project dispute in the Moorhead and Fargo area seemed more about politics and pander than policy and pragmatism. His sincerity is not in question; his effectiveness and credibility are.
Among Johnson’s priorities are to reduce taxes and shrink government. While that sounds like Republican boilerplate, the reality is that if Minnesota is to compete in a competitive national economy, it has to improve its tax climate and streamline its ossified regulatory systems. Johnson can’t do it alone, but as governor he can force lawmakers to talk about it.
Johnson is young, educated, experienced in public service and the private sector, and focused on issues vital to his state’s future. Minnesotans would do well to make him their next governor.
Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.