ST. PAUL - Two state representatives said today that they are dipping their toes in the Republican gubernatorial waters.
State Rep. Marty Seifert of Marshall said he is strongly considering getting into the Minnesota governor's race, but this morning said he is not quite ready to make the leap. Rep. Morrie Lanning of Moorhead said he also is considering it. Neither could say when a decision would be made.
They are the first of many Republicans expected to express an interest in replacing Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who Tuesday announced he will not seek a third term. More announcements are expected as nearly 20 Republicans are thinking about jumping into the race. At least a dozen Democrats already are looking at it.
"Right now, I'm feeling very good about my support so far," Seifert told reporters in a late-morning news conference. "It's in Duluth. It's in the metro. Of course, it is back home as well."
The Marshall lawmaker announced he would step down as the House Republican leader so he could devote time to his gubernatorial exploration. He would not say when he will make his final decision.
Lanning, Moorhead's mayor for 22 years before becoming a lawmaker in 2003, said that over the years, as with many politicians, he has considered potential options, including making a bid for governor. Pawlenty's announcement, he said, "opens the door for me to be thinking about that possibility" again.
He said he doesn't know when he will make a decision, but said it will be done after talks with family members and potential supporters.
Seifert, in office since 1997, said he did not think it was fair to divide his time between his minority leader duties and running for governor, or even considering whether to run. House Republicans already plan to meet June 24, so Seifert is placing an election for his replacement on the agenda.
Seifert will not resign as representative for his southwestern Minnesota district.
Another House leader may announce she is in the governor's race. Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, DFL-Minneapolis, is expected to enter an already crowded Democratic contest.
Seifert would not say Kelliher needs to resign her speaker's post if she runs for governor, but did say: "My announcement today may put some interesting pressure on her."
No other gubernatorial announcements were scheduled as of noon today, and those most mentioned have said they are not ready to make a pronouncement.
GOP names being discussed around the Capitol range from former U.S. Sen. Rod Grams to long-time House Speaker Steve Sviggum.
U.S. Rep. Michelle Bachmann, a conservative spokeswoman on many national news shows these days, is being discussed, although her staff says he is not interested.
Also often mentioned is former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, now awaiting a state Supreme Court decision about whether his effort to be re-elected to the Senate may be successful. Talk around the Capitol is that if the court rules against him, he could consider running for governor, which he did in 1998. He has not commented on the prospect.
Minnesota Democrats Exposed, a blog with deep ties to Republican insiders, today lists its top 18 potential GOP governor candidates: former State Auditor Pat Anderson, Bachmann, Rep. Laura Brod of New Prague, Rep. Matt Dean of Dellwood, Rep. Tom Emmer of Delano, Sen. Michelle Fischbach of Paynesville, Grams, Sen. David Hann of Eden Prairie, former secretary of state and current Rep. Mary Kiffmeyer of Big Lake, Rep. Paul Kohls of Victoria, former Rep. Phil Krinkie of Shoreview, Sen. Geoff Michel of Edina, former U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad of Minnetonka, Seifert, Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem of Rochester, Twin Cities businessman Brian Sullivan, Labor and Industry Commissioner Sviggum and former Rep. Charlie Weaver.
When he announced on Tuesday that he would not run again, Pawlenty said he made his announcement early so candidates could get started.
Besides campaigning, potential candidates must raise money. Pawlenty spent $4 million in his 2006 re-election big, which may be the floor for a successful candidate in the 2010 race.
Pawlenty said he will work to get a Republican elected governor, but did not say who he might support.
Dave Olson of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead contributed to this story.