AUDIO: Jeff Johnson kicks off campaign for governor

Johnson announces for governor.JPG

(MPR Photo/Tom Scheck)

Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson kicked off his campaign for governor today in the western Twin Cities suburb of Hamel. The Republican told a roomful of supporters that he’s running for because he said he’s worried about the direction DFL Gov. Mark Dayton is taking the state.

Johnson said his campaign will focus on jobs, education and improving government.

He said he thinks he’s best suited because he appeals to rank and file Republicans and middle of the road voters.

“We need a candidate who is a reliable, principled conservative, can be endorsed and supported by our activist base” Johnson said. “But we also need someone who Is liked enough and trusted enough by non-Republicans and who can actually relate to the vast middle class in the state so they’re able to win a statewide election. ”

Johnson said he will not run in the primary if he doesn’t win the party’s endorsement.

The bulk of Johnson’s speech focused on core Republican talking points like limited government and growing jobs through a low tax base. He told reporters after his speech that he would be reluctant to support tax increases if he’s governor.

“When someone can show me that government is spending the money it already has responsibly and efficiently and without wasting anything…” Johnson said. “Come and talk to me about a tax hike. But we are so far away from that right now it makes my head spin.”

This isn’t Johnson’s first run for statewide office. He lost his bid for attorney general to Democrat Lori Swanson in 2006.

Johnson is the second major Republican to announce he’s running for governor. Orono-based businessman Scott Honour announced last month that he’s running for governor.

Gov. Dayton says he’s running for re-election.

You can listen to Johnson’s speech here: