DULUTH, Minn. (NNCNOW.com) --- The expansion of Highway 2 across the northern part of Minnesota is becoming a campaign issue in the Republican primary for Minnesota Governor.
Bill Kuisle, the running mate of Republican-endorsed gubernatorial candidate, Jeff Johnson, told the Owatanna People’s Press that Highway 2 should stay at two lanes instead of expanding to four.
Kuisle's comments to the southern Minnesota newspaper on Highway 2 evoked a strong response from one of the leading Republican candidates for governor.
Former Minority Leader Marty Seifert and his running mate Pam Myhra are running against Johnson and Kuisle in the Republican primary for Governor.
Before wrapping up his 87 county tour in Carlton County Wednesday, Seifert said Highway 2 is a main artery for businesses across northern Minnesota and added that Kuisle's comments "surprised" him.
“I do think Highway 2 should have been four lanes," Seifert said. "I would vehemently disagree with the characterization that it should remain a two lane road. I was actually a little bit surprised when I saw it.”
Seifert also said if he is elected governor, he would like to see some segments of Highway 2 completed.
"Being a rural guy, I know and understand that Highway 2 needs to be four lanes," Seifert added. "How is the grain from northwestern Minnesota going to get to the ports of Duluth in a safe and easy fashion? How do we get the snowmobiles and the four wheelers to the ports of Duluth?"
As primary voters vet four Republican candidates running for governor, Seifert is playing up his rural roots in a big way.
Republicans have not had a competitive statewide primary for governor in decades, so it is unclear if Seifert's strategy will pan out come August.
However, in 2010, about 40 percent of voters in the DFL gubernatorial primary lived in the First, Seventh, and Eighth Congressional Districts. These three rural districts contain about a third of the state's population, but boast high turnout in elections.
In addition to Seifert and Johnson, former Minnesota House Speaker Kurt Zellers and Orono Businessman Scott Honour are running in the August primary for governor.
The winner of the Republican gubernatorial primary on August 12th will face Governor Mark Dayton in November's election.