WILLMAR - There are four Republican candidates running for governor but so far only one has made a campaign stop in Willmar following the GOP’s endorsing convention last weekend.

During an early Wednesday morning stop at the Willmar Municipal Airport, Marty Seifert, a former state representative from Marshall, said taking the time and having the “hustle” to visit rural Minnesota communities is one thing that sets him apart from the other Republican candidates.

“It is a maverick candidacy,” said Seifert, acknowledging that Republicans aren’t accustomed to having a primary race to challenge the endorsed candidate.

Seifert said he expected to get the blessing of GOP delegates and was optimistic when the convention got underway on Friday. But he said the long ballot process for the U.S. Senate endorsement delayed the delegates’ vote for governor on Saturday by seven hours and many of his supporters went home.

“It was long and exhausting,” he said. “A lot of rural people had to go home. We had empty chairs.”

Some delegates at the convention were reportedly angry when they endorsed Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson and Seifert announced he intended to run in the primary election. But Seifert said he’d made it clear from the start of his campaign that he would run in the primary if he wasn’t endorsed.

Two other Republican candidates, businessman Scott Honour and former Speaker of the Minnesota House Kurt Zellers, by-passed the endorsing convention and are also running in the primary.

 Seifert said his Republican opponents are “great people” and called them friends.

But “they all live in western Hennepin County and they’re generally cut from the same cloth,” said Seifert, who touts his rural credentials and claims to be the only candidate who’s lived his entire life in Minnesota.

Other than “minor nuances” there’s not much philosophically and politically that separates the three candidates, he said.

“They’re all good guys and generally conservative,” said Seifert, who predicted the primary campaign will not be nasty. “There are no sharp elbows here. We’re friends with everyone,” he said.

The difference will come down to who voters in the Aug. 12 primary election think can beat Gov. Mark Dayton in November.

Without the party endorsement in hand, and with all four candidates fighting to secure campaign money, Seifert said he thinks voters will select the candidate with the best campaign to take on Dayton.

“The person that hustles the most tends to be rewarded by the voters for their work ethic, because Minnesota is a very hard-working state,” said Seifert, who said he’ll be in more Minnesota communities this week than the other three candidates combined.

It’s a pace he intends to continue through the summer.

“You can’t just sit in Minneapolis at your campaign headquarters on Twitter and Facebook and hope that your campaign works out,” he said. “You’ve got to get out and you’ve got to hustle.”

Seifert said Dayton is vulnerable because of his action on taxes, spending, health care and stadium issues.

If elected, Seifert said he would create a budget that “reflects the values” of the state and he would focus on healthcare, taxes, equitable funding for education, increased academic instruction time in schools and more school choice options. He said he opposes a four-day school week.