By Esme Murphy

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — This coming week we will hear more about two big political stories:

1. Former Gov. Tim Pawlenty is expected to be in the state to meet with supporters to discuss a possible run for his old job.
2. More candidates may jump into the 8th Congressional District race after Congressman Rick Nolan unexpectedly retired.

If Pawlenty wants to enter the governor’s race, he would have to do it soon.

The caucuses have already happened, and County Commissioner Jeff Johnson won the Republican gubernatorial caucuses with 45 percent of the vote.

After leaving the governor’s office in 2010, Pawlenty became a Washington lobbyist for the banking industry, making $2.7 million in 2016.

That could make him a political target for Republican and Democratic opponents. But he is the last Republican to be elected to statewide office in Minnesota and would have instant statewide name recognition.

Johnson, on the other hand, lost the governor’s race to Mark Dayton in 2014.

Another big development for Republicans this past week was the unexpected announcement that Democratic Congressman Rick Nolan would not run for re-election, meaning the 8th Congressional District is now a rare open seat.

Minnesota GOP party Chair Jennifer Carnahan was a guest on WCCO Sunday Morning.

“Minnesota now has two of the biggest pickup opportunities in the country for Congressional seats for national Republicans with Congressional District 8 with Rick Nolan and with Congressional District one with Tim Waltz running for Governor,” she said. “If there were and two Democrats who could hold those two seats in Minnesota it was those two gentlemen.”

St. Louis County Commissioner Pete Stauber is already running for the Republican nomination in the 8th District. But Stewart Mills, the Fleet Farm heir who narrowly lost to Nolan in the last two elections, says he is now thinking of running again.

On the Democratic side, Leah Phifer, a former FBI intelligence analyst, is also already running.

In 2016, the 8th Congressional District race between Nolan and Mills was the fifth-most expensive in the country, with combined spending topping $21 million.
Experts believe the spending this year, now that the seat is open, could top even that.

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