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Pawlenty promises to serve four years

EAGAN, Minn. -- Tim Pawlenty stood in front of a calm lake on a sunny, idyllic day promising four years of keeping taxes low, making government accountable, being fiscally responsible and continuing the record pace of locking up sex offenders and methamphetamine users.

And he promised Wednesday to serve out his four-year term if re-elected Minnesota governor.

The first-term Republican issued no new proposals during his half-hour lakeside re-election announcement near his Eagan home. The announcement came as no surprise since he has said all along he plans to run again.

The only thing new was a pledge not to bail out of his term early.

It took reporters three tries before Pawlenty was clear in his promise not to leave office.

"If I run for governor and win I will serve out my term for four years," he said.

Pawlenty has been considered a possible 2008 presidential or vice presidential candidate.

The governor spent much of his announcement talking about education, although he offered no new plans. He said high school student performance "is flattening out. The whole high school experience has to be overhauled."

The 45-year-old former Minnesota House majority leader held his re-election announcement on the shores of Holland Lake, where he often joins his wife and two daughters on walks. A few dozen supporters held campaign signs as he and Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau formally kicked off their campaign.

The announcement came a day before Republicans convene their state convention in the Minneapolis Convention Center.

U.S. Rep. Mark Kennedy is on track to be endorsed for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Democrat Mark Dayton after the convention opens tonight. Pawlenty, Secretary of State Mary Kiffmeyer and State Auditor Pat Anderson are expected to easily win endorsements Saturday. So is Rep. Jeff Johnson of Plymouth, a Detroit Lakes native, who is running for attorney general.

Pawlenty is a given for the top state spot, although Minneapolis bar owner and Libertarian candidate Sue Jeffers is trying to get endorsed.

While Kennedy is bound to receive a good reception among fellow Republicans tonight, his race against Hennepin County Attorney Amy Klobuchar, if she swats aside persistent Democratic challenger Ford Bell, will be tougher. The race is highlighted nationally and will attract attention and dollars from all over since the Senate Democratic-Republican split is narrow.

On Friday, Jim Ramstad delivers the noontime keynote address. The congressman faces a possible tough Democratic challenge in his changing Twin Cities suburban district.

The Pawlenty-Molnau endorsement also will be Friday.

Having a slate of candidates without opposition is a good thing for Republicans, party spokesman Mark Drake said.

"We're happy that we do have a party that is unified," Drake said. "We are really happy that it looks like the DFL will have some primaries."

Challengers are expected to run in the Sept. 12 governor and Senate primary elections against candidates Democrats endorse next week at their Rochester convention.

"The Democrats are going to have some blood letting and internal fighting and it looks like we are not," Drake said, adding that the situation should mean the GOP will have an easier time focusing on the Nov. 7 general election and getting donations.

The convention will have 1,984 delegates and 1,990 alternates. Four years ago, 5,282 attended the party's convention in St. Paul. That convention featured Pawlenty beating Twin Cities businessman Brian Sullivan in an endorsement battle that stretched until nearly 4 a.m.

Jeffers wants to challenge Pawlenty this weekend, but Drake said it is doubtful the convention's Nominating Committee will back her efforts.

Pawlenty downplayed Jeffers's chances, saying Republican delegates would endorse a Republican, not a Libertarian.

Jeffers, who fought a statewide smoking ban, already is on the ballot as a Libertarian, but in recent weeks started seeking the GOP endorsement, too.

"The party officials have been throwing up roadblocks, trying to keep me out of the process, but I don't need them," Jeffers said. "The delegates are taking back control of their party. More are contacting me every day, and they're getting behind my campaign."

Following Pawlenty's re-election announcement Wednesday, Kiffmeyer and Anderson said they also will run again.

Kiffmeyer, who wants a third term, took credit for helping give Minnesota the largest voter turnout three straight elections.

Anderson, seeking a second term, said she has been a strong advocate for taxpayers in her job of looking over local government finances.

Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party leaders said Republican officials, especially Pawlenty, have failed to move Minnesota ahead in most areas. The Pawlenty administration is "like a car that has two gears -- park and reverse," governor candidate and state Sen. Steve Kelley said.

Don Davis can be reached at or (651) 290-0707.

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.