Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has announced he will not seek a third term in 2010.
For my money, Pawlenty brought a tremendous amount of dignity and class to the office. Of course, that may sound like damnation with faint praise given that we endured four years of Jesse Ventura and eight years of Arne Carlson. But Pawlenty's common sense approach to balancing the state budget has been sorely needed, especially since Democrats attained a solid majority in both the House and Senate in 2006. Sure, he wasn't as conservative as I would have liked, especially when it came to the environment, smoking bans and taxpayer funded stadiums. But given the political dynamics in Minnesota, Pawlenty was as close to a conservative as we could get.
I guess I'm not shocked by this announcement. It was rumored last fall that Pawlenty was one of the finalists for John McCain's running mate, a sure sign he has aspirations beyond state government. Pawlenty has also appeared on many national talk shows this year and has never denied possibly running for President in 2012.
Politically, declining a third term may be the smartest move. With less than two years remaining as Governor now, Pawlenty can virtually govern carte blanche as long as there are no GOP defectors in the House. He has already vowed to utilize the line-item veto on the latest state budget passed by the House and Senate.
Of course, the discussion now turns to who will vie for the GOP nomination in 2010. Some names I've heard thus far are State Rep. Laura Brod (New Prague) and State Sen. Mike Jungbauer (East Bethel), but it's early yet.
Whatever the case, I wish Mr. Pawlenty well and thank him immensely for his service to our great state!
UPDATE: First Ringer at True North lists some possbile GOP candidates.