Newspaper article

'We Need to Speak to People's Hearts as Well as Their Minds': A Q&A with GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Jeff Johnson

Newspaper article

'We Need to Speak to People's Hearts as Well as Their Minds': A Q&A with GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Jeff Johnson

Article excerpt

A political candidate connecting with voters at the Minnesota State Fair has a job not dissimilar to the host of an infomercial. First, you have to connect with the customer personally. Next, you must convince them the product is worth their time. Then, you have to close the deal.

Republican candidate for governor Jeff Johnson, a man whom even DFL party chair Ken Martin describes as affable, may possess natural assets to make that tricky first connection -- but making the sale is the goal. In an interview at his State Fair booth, he describes his approach to politics at the great Minnesota get-together.

What's the best way to connect with fairgoers?

I never stand inside the booth. I'm always out in front of the booth. We have a steady stream. It's very seldom that I'm standing there waiting for someone to come. It's just being out front there, being very accessible, and trying to move about from person to person.

What are you hearing from people?

I'm hearing everything under the sun. There's no real serious pattern. We have a lot of Republicans come and say, "Way to go" and ask, "How are you going to win?" I get a lot of non-Republicans who come up and just want to meet me and hear what I'm about. Issue- wise, it's all over the place. Health care and jobs are probably the two most common things that come up. Second amendment comes up from some people. And I've had issues come up that I haven't even thought about before.

For example?

It was just some sort of retirement benefit tax, something I've just never looked into. It gives me one thing to go back to the office and learn about. Somebody else wanted to talk about -- they had made some changes to dog breeding laws.

Are you learning anything that you might use in your campaigning over the next months?

This just solidifies what I think I already knew. When you talk to people you need to personalize it. They need to hear not just the numbers that we as Republicans are so good at giving people the facts and the logic. They want to hear how it will affect them and how it affects other people. That has been really common. That is an important campaign piece that we as Republicans are never very good at and need to be better at. …

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