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In first TV ad, Tim Pawlenty goes after Jeff Johnson

His focus is not on Democrats, but his GOP primary opponent.

The first TV ad from gubernatorial candidate Tim Pawlenty went live on Thursday, and it focuses on his GOP opponent Jeff Johnson.

While Pawlenty's public comments has thus far focused mainly on potential Democratic opponents in November's election, particularly Rep. Tim Walz, the new ad recognizes another threat to his ambitions for a return to the governor's house.

Johnson is a former GOP gubernatorial candidate, running unsuccessfully against Gov. Mark Dayton in 2014, and was given the Republican endorsement at the state convention last month, which Pawlenty declined to attend.

The ad focuses on Johnson's record as a Hennepin County Commissioner, accusing him of being a "career politician who taxes and spends – a lot."

It cites a 3 percent tax hike Johnson proposed in Hennepin County in 2009, as well as support he'd previously shown Gov. Dayton's proposed expansion of sales tax.

But as ever with attack ads, the claims it makes only tells part of the story.

Regarding the 3 percent tax hike, Johnson made this proposal as an alternative to the proposal of 4.95 percent the rest of the Hennepin County Board supported (and he voted against).

Meanwhile his reference to Dayton's "wise" sales tax proposal was part of a wider op-ed in the Pioneer Press in which he excoriated the Democratic governor's other tax policies.

Responding on Twitter, Johnson referred to the video as "pathetically false" and an example of "how the swamp operates."

Speaking to WCCO Radio on Thursday, Johnson said Pawlenty's ad was "brutal" and "nasty," and the fact he ran it suggests "the race is not going as Tim Pawlenty's advisers are telling him it would."

Johnson himself has come out swinging in the past against Pawlenty, posting a campaign video in March in which he criticized him for his lobbying job in D.C., his failed presidential run and previous attacks on President Donald Trump.

Erik Paulsen criticizes President Trump in new ad

Pawlenty is not the only Republican releasing a campaign ad this week.

The campaign to re-elect 3rd Congressional District GOP Rep. Erik Paulsen released its first TV ad of the season, in which Paulsen is heavily critical of President Donald Trump for his plans to open up areas of Superior National Forest for further mining exploration.

Paulsen has been making efforts to distance himself from President Trump as he faces a stern challenge from DFLer Dean Phillips. 

"I camp and canoe with my family in Minnesota’s Yellowstone, the Boundary Waters,” Paulsen says. "So when President Trump tried to take away important environmental protections for the Boundary Waters, I said, ‘No way.'"

“I’ll stand up to my party or President Trump to protect Minnesota,” he adds.

But Paulsen's critics have since pointed out that Paulsen has voted with President Trump 97.6 percent of the time since Trump took office – the third highest amount among all House members.

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