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Bergstrom chosen as GOP running mate

Donna Bergstrom of Duluth listens to a reporter's question Monday, May 14, 2018, after Republican governor candidate Jeff Johnson named her as his running mate. Don Davis / Forum News Service1 / 2
Republican governor candidate Jeff Johnson looks at his running mate, Donna Bergstrom, during a Monday, May 14, 2018, news conference. Don Davis / Forum News Service2 / 2

ST. PAUL — Minnesota Republican governor candidate Jeff Johnson has picked a Duluthian as his running mate.

Although observers had expected a greater Minnesota woman to be Johnson's pick as lieutenant governor, his Monday announcement was a surprise to many because Donna Bergstrom lives in Duluth and belongs to the Red Lake Nation, both Democratic strongholds.

Johnson and Bergstrom said they agree on many topics.

"The proper role of government is to serve and not to bully," Bergstrom said.

Johnson said that one of Bergstrom's strengths is her lack of government experience.

"Donna is not part of the broken system that is failing Minnesota," he said. "Together, we will upend the status quo."

The 55-year-old lieutenant governor candidate went into little detail about where she stands on issues, including Native American issues, but said she does oppose abortion, like many other Republicans.

Bergstrom has been a Republican activist and ran for state Senate two years ago, losing to then-state Rep. Erik Simonson in a Duluth district that has elected Democrats for years.

Johnson said Bergstrom's background makes her good for the job. She grew up in Carlton and now lives in Duluth. Her mother lived on the Red Lake Reservation, and Bergstrom visits there often. She has a law degree, is a former Marine officer and is taking classes to obtain her teaching license.

"She is soft spoken, but a Marine," Johnson said.

Bergstrom served more than 20 years as a Marine reserve intelligence officer, handling some of the country's top secrets. She retired from the Marines in 2010 as lieutenant colonel.

"In many ways, my life has been the embodiment of the American dream," she said, "and when I take office, it will be a testament to the fact that political leaders can still be one of us, from the people and of the people."

Bergstrom's selection comes less than three weeks before Republicans meet in Duluth to pick their candidates.

Another GOP candidate, Mary Giuliani Stephens, picked state Rep. Jeff Backer of Browns Valley as her running mate. The other major Republican hopeful, former Gov. Tim Pawlenty, has not announced his lieutenant governor pick.

Bergstrom is the second Native American woman to be a major party running mate this year. State Rep. Peggy Flanagan of St. Louis Park is running with U.S. Rep. Tim Walz on the Democratic ticket.

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.
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