Gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson made a visit to Granite Falls on Wednesday, October 10. Johnson held a meet and greet at the Granite Grinder and took some time to talk with community members. Johnson talked about his general vision for the state, highlighted some key issues, and defended himself from some of the criticisms he’s received.

Johnson (who currently serves as a Hennepin County Commissioner) talked about not wanting Minnesota to be a ‘sanctuary state’ (a term used by many Republicans to describe state policies aimed at protecting undocumented residents from deportation), and challenged his DFL opponent Tim Walz on this issue. Johnson said Walz wanted to allow illegal immigrants to “have a safe space” in Minnesota.

Johnson said he wanted to have a fairer legal immigration system. When asked about what he would do about DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) children, Johnson said he would allow them to stay, but also said he agreed with the steps President Trump had taken by scaling back the system and attempting to phase it out. Johnson went on to say that President Obama’s executive order expanding DACA was unconstitutional.

Johnson was asked about the financial state of Minnesota. Johnson, as well as the community members who asked the question, acknowledged that Minnesota is in good financial shape. DFL Governor Mark Dayton has had a string of budget surpluses, and recently Minnesota was given a AAA credit rating by two bond agencies. Minnesota's strong budget management and recent steps to shore up public pensions were cited as reasons for the improvement.

Johnson, however, views surpluses as the government taking too much. He said he wants to cut taxes and give the people their money back. It is worth noting that 98% of Minnesota taxpayers haven’t seen an increase in state income tax in 17 years, 2.3 million Minnesotans have actually received an income tax cut under Governor Dayton. The only increase on state Income taxes under Dayton was on the top 2% of income earners. Johnson still stressed the point that he strongly disagreed with the way Governor Dayton handles the budget and government spending.

This reporter had the opportunity to ask community members who had come out to see Johnson about certain issues and what they liked most about Johnson. A lot of people said they supported him from the beginning because they didn’t want Tim Pawlenty to win the Republican primary.

Johnson's view about not wanting Minnesota to be a sanctuary state was also a strong contributing factor to their support. Johnson’s favorable view of Donald Trump also was popular with the people in attendance.

Most if not all of the people at the meet and greet had voted for Donald Trump and they made it known. “I like Trump because he’s not a politician,” was a common response. It appeared that most of the people there liked the shakeup Trump has brought to Washington. Johnson agreed with their sentiments and even joked about the President’s Twitter.

Johnson held the meet and greet with local Minnesota house 16A candidate, and current representative, Chris Swedzinski. He was also joined by Minnesota Attorney General GOP candidate Doug Wardlow.

Swedzinski mingled with community members and discussed the previous nights gubernatorial debate with Johnson. Doug Wardlow talked about his opponent Keith Ellison. Community members strongly emphasized the fact that they didn’t like Ellison. Wardlow was quick to say he is a down ballot candidate so it’s going to be tough to win, and stressed it’s important to vote for attorney general. Johnson and Wardlow heavily criticized Ellison’s view on illegal immigration and open borders.

Another important issue brought up by the community included healthcare. Johnson criticized his DFL opponent Tim Walz for supporting a single payer healthcare system. Johnson said he wants to get the government out of healthcare and allow private insurance companies to compete to lower costs. He continued to say he wants to protect people with pre existing conditions, refuting a claim that the DFL has said he doesn’t. Johnson went on to say covering people with pre existing conditions is a Minnesota value.

In a conversation with the Advocate Tribune after the event, Johnson went through what he had said earlier about not wanting government in healthcare. He said the quality of care would drop and wait times would go up. He went on to say that people from single payer countries come to America for healthcare. He maintained that he wanted government out of healthcare, and that it was best to let private insurance companies compete and lower prices.

Some people who were just at the Grinder for coffee were caught off guard by Johnson who shook everyone’s hand and said hello. In total there were about 15 people who had come out to meet Jeff Johnson, and the event lasted a little over an hour. Johnson finished off the meet and greet by thanking everyone for coming and reminding them to vote on November 6.