ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty peers straight ahead in a dark suit with the state Capitol behind him in an official portrait that, beginning Tuesday, will forever hang in the building.
The portrait was unveiled Monday night at a ceremony for family, friends, staff and supporters. It marked a rare public appearance for Pawlenty since his decision two months ago to end a GOP presidential campaign, a stunted bid he reflected on briefly after the event.
Pawlenty opted against a symbol-laden painting to commemorate his time as governor as several of the previous 38 have. It was done by Atlanta-based artist Ross R. Rossin, a Bulgarian native who has painted presidents and other leading generational figures.
Pawlenty said he and his wife Mary thought about using icons — a hockey stick, a lake scene or a Bible among them — but the artist advised against it. He decided on something that reflects the serious times in which he governed. The painting shows him with a muted grin and one hand in the pants pocket of his open-coated suit.
“It is fairly straight forward. It is direct. There are no hidden symbols, no hidden agendas,” Mary Pawlenty said.
The painting breaks a recent string of Minnesota gubernatorial portraits chock full of emblems. For instance, Jesse Ventura holds a lit cigar and golf holes are visible in the background of his painting; Arne Carlson wears his University of Minnesota sweater; Al Quie is pictured with his beloved horses.
Pawlenty struck a modest tone in talking about the work and his legacy.
“I’m proud of the portrait, I’m proud of what I did as governor, but it’s one moment in time,” Pawlenty said. “It’s a blink of an eye in terms of the overall history of the state and all of that will soon be a paragraph in some dusty history book.”
The portrait unveiling leads off Pawlenty’s most visible week since leaving the presidential race in August. He is due to appear on Minnesota Public Radio on Tuesday for his first extensive interview. On Sunday, he’ll appear on “Meet The Press” to vouch for the candidacy of former opponent Mitt Romney whom Pawlenty endorsed last month.
Pawlenty dropped out after a disappointing third-place showing in the Iowa GOP’s straw poll. He said Monday his campaign was in debt and “didn’t have the additional chips to see the next card in the hand.”
In hindsight, he said he put too much money emphasis on the Iowa straw poll, and he probably pulled the plug too quickly.
“If I would have known then what I know now we would have made a different decision. However, based on what we knew at the time, we thought it was the right call,” Pawlenty said.
Pawlenty said he is considering several career options away from politics, including consulting or work for corporate boards, foundations or think tanks. He didn’t rule out a run for another office down the road.
“I’m not going to rule anything in or anything out,” he said.
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