By Pat Kessler

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Former Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty made a political splash Thursday in naming Lt. Gov. Michelle Fischbach as his running mate.

The Pawlenty pick comes just one day before the state Republican Party endorsing convention in Duluth, which the two will not attend.

It’s a solid pick politically, and also intriguing.

She’s the brand-new lieutenant governor with Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton.

Now, she’s running for the same job with former the former Republican governor.

Fischbach is a seasoned political pro, who is respected and liked by Republicans and Democrats.

Pawlenty says she’s “the whole package.”

“She’s strong. She’s smart. She’s a hard worker, and she’s collegial,” he said.

Fischbach has 22 years of state Capitol experience, and she was the first woman elected state Senate president.

She’s also an expert on higher education.

Fischbach resisted becoming Dayton’s lieutenant governor.

She was automatically elevated to the post when Al Franken resigned the U.S. Senate, and Dayton appointed then-Lt. Gov. Tina Smith to take Franken’s place.

Fischbach did not tell Dayton she was going to be Pawlenty’s running mate until Thursday.

But at a billing signing later that day, Dayton said he bears no ill will toward his current lieutenant governor for not keeping him in the loop.

“She’s followed the procedures exactly,” he said, “and she has the perfect right to run for another office. Or for the same one.”

Starting Friday, Republicans are meeting in Duluth to endorse a candidate for governor.

Pawlenty and Fischbach will skip the convention, and go directly to the Republican governor’s primary election this summer.

Pat Kessler