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MINNESOTA POLITICS: Legislature gets full of governor hopefuls

Legislature gets full of governor hopefuls ST. PAUL -- Next year's Minnesota Legislature should be interesting, given that many key lawmakers want to make the jump to governor -- or at least are considering it. Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, opt...

Legislature gets full of governor hopefuls

ST. PAUL -- Next year's Minnesota Legislature should be interesting, given that many key lawmakers want to make the jump to governor -- or at least are considering it.

Rep. Marty Seifert, R-Marshall, opted to leave his job as minority leader even if he just "kicks the tires" for a gubernatorial run.

He said it would not be fair to the 47 House Republicans if he were forced to split his time between leading them and running for governor.

Another House leader soon may face the same situation, but pretty much no one expects her to step out of her high-profile role.

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Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, is expected to enter an already crowded Democratic contest.

Seifert would not say Kelliher needs to resign as speaker if she runs for governor, but did say: "My announcement today may put some interesting pressure on her."

There are another dozen leaders and committee chairmen looking at running, a situation that often leads to more rhetoric than work in sessions.

On the other hand, candidates may be eager to hit the campaign trail and not want to be in session very long, leaving Minnesota with a short session.

Most pundits probably would bet on the former.

Bakk for governor

Another Minnesota Democrat officially jumped into the 2010 governor's race Sunday, making the field of candidates looking to succeed GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty even more crowded.

In announcing his candidacy, state Sen. Tom Bakk, 55, DFL- Cook, said job growth and job security would be top priorities.

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"Too many Minnesotans are losing their jobs, homes and health insurance. I am determined to turn Minnesota around, restore balance, fairness and common sense to our economic policies," Bakk said in a news release.

Bakk was elected to the state Senate in 2002 and has chaired the Senate Tax Committee since 2006.

In the latest legislative session, his committee endorsed a tax proposal that would have raised income taxes on most Minnesotans -- especially the highest wage-earners -- to help erase the state's budget deficit.

In an interview with the Mesabi Daily News of Virginia, Bakk described himself as a "good old-fashioned jobs Democrat."

He said creating a strong business climate that also holds businesses accountable will help create more jobs.

"There is no magic to economic development. It's hard work. And that means it needs to be a high priority of a governor," Bakk said.

Even before Pawlenty bowed out, Bakk and a number of other high-profile Democrats had taken steps toward the 2010 race.

The others are former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner, former state Sen. Steve Kelley, former House Minority Leader Matt Entenza, state Sen. John Marty and state Rep. Paul Thissen.

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House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher of Minneapolis and state Sen. Tarryl Clark of St. Cloud are also seen as a potential candidates.

No Democrat has won a race for Minnesota governor since 1986.

No Pawlenty

Gov. Tim Pawlenty admits he is not well-known across the country, which means he would need to do a lot of work if he were to run for president in 2012.

As if to drive that point home, a CNN poll did not even mention the Minnesota Republican.

But because the survey showed there is no clear front runner, it leaves Pawlenty with a chance.

CNN reported that 22 percent of Republicans likely would support former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney came in at 21 percent each.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich trailed at 13 percent, with just 6 percent backing ex-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Independence bid?

Independence Party Chairman Jack Uldrich said not only will Republican and Democratic-Farmer-Labor party politicians run for governor, but someone will emerge from his party, as well.

Apparently considering running are former U.S. Rep. Tim Penny, former short-time U.S. Sen. Dean Barkley and Stephen Williams, who ran for the Senate last year.

Time to celebrate

Al Franken said it is time to party. But a June 25 Minneapolis gathering is more than a celebration; it is a fundraiser. Tickets run anywhere from $50 to $5,000.

The Democrat's U.S. Senate campaign said he has made it through three of the five C's -- campaign, count and court. This party will be the celebration, with the final C -- Capitol ---left.

In a letter to supporters, Franken said he continues to need contributions: "Although I'm confident that our victory will withstand any continuing legal challenges from national Republicans, our talented legal team is still hard at work protecting our win, which means I still need your help."

Franken was locked in an expensive court battle with opponent Norm Coleman.

Opening joke

They say speeches should begin with a joke, so Tim Pawlenty did just that when announcing he would not run for a third term as governor.

"Thanks for coming to the announcement that, in light of the Brett Favre situation and its unsettling impact on the people of Minnesota, I am signing an executive order requiring St. Paul native Joe Mauer, in addition to catching for the Twins, to also play quarterback for the Vikings," Pawlenty deadpanned. "These are tough times, Joe, and everybody has to dig deep."

Observers may have walked away with at least this observation: Pawlenty will not "unretire" like the famous quarterback.

Within hours, Pawlenty was in demand on the national news channel scene. But apparently no one asked him to repeat his opening joke. Most of the talk was about running for president.

Davis reports for Forum Communications Co, which owns the Herald. The second item came from The Associated Press.

Related Topics: TIM PAWLENTY
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