Former Governor Tim Pawlenty takes reporters’ questions this morning at a restaurant in Eagan, after announcing via video Thursday that he’s again running for governor. In that video, Pawlenty says, “When I was governor, we were number one in ACT scores and in the top three states for teaching math and science, but we’ve slipped.” He says he’ll increase school funding, but also hold schools accountable for better results. He says he’ll also make sure that modern vocational training is a real option after high school.
Pawlenty says health care premiums are “crushing us” and Minnesota wastes hundreds of millions each year on health care for people who aren’t even eligible. “Gimme a break,” he says. “Let’s use that money to lower costs for those in the middle. Pawlenty adds he’ll hold big drug companies accountable for their role in the opioid crisis.
On immigration Pawlenty says,”Let’s stop hiding behind political correctness and make sure people getting government benefits are here legally. That’s a no-brainer.” He also pledges to stop taxing Social Security benefits for those who need it most.
Republican gubernatorial hopeful Jeff Johnson, front runner in February’s precinct caucuses, says Pawlenty began his campaign by meeting privately with 100 of the wealthiest donors in Minnesota — not a promising sign that Pawlenty understands the Minnesota of today.
Democratic reaction to the announcement was swift. Democratic front-runner Tim Walz says Pawlenty was a bad governor and is not the leader Minnesota needs. He says Pawlenty made decisions that hurt working Minnesotans and really hit home on health care, education and infrastructure. Rebecca Otto, in second place among D-F-L hopefuls, says when Pawlenty was governor, “he made bad budget decisions that harmed our healthcare coverage, cut the funding and quality of our public schools, increased college tuition, and let our bridges and roads crumble.”
Carleton College political analyst Steven Schier says Pawlenty’s announcement “transforms the entire race for governor.” Schier notes Pawlenty is the last Republican to win statewide office in Minnesota and “that’s a pretty important credential when you consider that that was in 2006 and in the last 12 years it’s been really difficult for Republicans, so I think that credential alone separates him from the field.”
Schier notes Pawlenty’s announcement comes when President Trump is not that popular and there seems to be a wave building against Republicans. “What Republicans need in Minnesota are attractive candidates at the top of the ticket who can blunt those trends, and Pawlenty might be such a candidate and it might help the GOP to keep the state House,” he says. Democrats will fight hard this campaign, trying to keep Republicans from controlling not only the legislature but also the governor’s office.
Here’s the complete audio from Pawlenty’s announcement Thursday: