Stephens Backs Backer As Running Mate

The Woodbury Republican mayor running for Minnesota governor has picked a rural lawmaker to be her running mate.

Mary Giuliani Stephens announced on Wednesday, May 2, that Rep. Jeff Backer from Browns Valley will run for lieutenant governor. The team represents the two geographic areas Republicans must carry to win a general election: the suburbs and rural Minnesota.

Stephens, a Rochester native, said “it is absolutely essential” to have a rural running mate. She said that in discussion so far, the two have found no differences on rural issues, but if they do she will “listen and value” Backer’s opinions.

She said the two have not decided specifically what Backer would do if they are elected.

With an eastern Minnesota suburbanite and western Minnesota small-town resident on the ticket, voters in much of the state can relate to them, the candidates said.

“I think we are going to do a better job of representing Minnesotans because of our backgrounds,” Stephens said.

The team is running from behind.

Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, a Detroit Lakes native, has been in the race for months, and generally is thought to be leading the delegate race for the GOP state convention in a month. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty is a more recent entrant into the race, and already has a huge financial lead and has the best name recognition in the race.

Stephens said she will abide by the endorsement at the convention, to be held in Rochester. So if Johnson beats her, she will not run in the Aug. 14 primary election. Pawlenty is expected to run in the primary regardless of who wins in Rochester.

“We are underdogs going in…” Stephens said. “We have been working hard picking up one delegate at a time.”

Backer said his background of being a small business owner, school board member, councilman and mayor will serve him well. The lawmaker, who also is an emergency medical technician, was elected to the House in 2014.

He promised to defeat “both of the D.C. Tim twins,” referring to Republican Pawlenty and Democratic governor candidate U.S. Rep. Tim Walz.

Backer said the administration of Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, who is not seeking re-election, has waged “a war against ag and we have to stop it.”

Stephens, saying she knows little about farm policy, said even she could see how some of Dayton’s actions would hurt farmers.