MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Former Minnesota Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Thursday he will seek an unprecedented third term in office, promising what he calls “a better way forward.”
Pawlenty served two terms as Minnesota governor from January 6, 2003 until January 3, 2011.
In a video statement posted to his campaign website, the former governor said, “My top priority will be putting those in the middle — who are working hard and getting squeezed — first. It’s a better way forward. I have the strength and experience to solve problems and bring us together.”
After leaving office in 2011, Pawlenty ran unsuccessfully for president in 2012. He was the national co-chairm of Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign.
Since 2012, Pawlenty was the head of the Financial Services Roundtable, a Washington D.C.-based lobbying group for Wall Street banks.
The former governor says his 2018 campaign will focus on education funding, the opioid crisis, and reforming health care. Pawlenty linked rising health care premiums to Minnesotans who shouldn’t be getting them.
“Minnesota wastes hundreds of millions each year on health care for people who aren’t even eligible,” he asserted. “Give me a break. Let’s use that money to lower costs for those in the middle.”
Pawlenty also said state government should find undocumented immigrants who may be improperly receiving government assistance.
“Let’s stop hiding behind political correctness and make sure people getting government benefits are here legally,” he said. “That’s a no-brainer.”
The 2018 Minnesota Republican race for governor is already well underway, with several well-established candidates seeking the GOP endorsement, and strong support within the party for President Donald Trump.
Pawlenty denounced Trump in October 2016 as “unsound, uninformed, unhinged and unfit to be President of the United States” after a tape surfaced of the future President making vulgar comments about women.
It is not known whether Pawlenty will seek the Republican party endorsement, or go directly to an August primary election.
Political analyst Larry Jacobs says Pawlenty has many advantages as a candidates: near total name recognition, robust campaign finances, and being a talented communicator. But Jacobs says Pawlenty’s message could face obstacles because of deep Trump support among Republicans, and animosity from Democrats.
“The question is, will voters hear it?” Jacobs said. “Particularly over the the din of criticism from Republicans that he’s a traitor, and criticism from Democrats that he’s a loser.”
Following Pawlenty’s campaign announcement Thursday, Minnesota’s DFL party denounced Pawlenty, accusing him of depriving thousands of Minnesotans of affordable health care during his time as governor.
“From health care to education to infrastructure, Pawlenty failed our state,” DFL Chairman Ken Martin said, in a statement. “We need an honest leader who will fight to build a better Minnesota—not a Wall Street lobbyist who cares more about the wealthy than everyday families.”