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Austin-area Republicans react to governor’s news

By Heather J. Carlson and Sarah Doty

Post-Bulletin, Austin MN

News of Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s decision not to run for a third term caught some area Republicans off guard.

Jeff Anderson, a politics teacher at Austin High School and a former Republican state representative, said the news is "pretty surprising."

"He is a pretty popular governor," Anderson said. "He has maintained a pretty high popularity, a favorable rating throughout his two terms, but I think that he may have ideas of possibly running for a different office, too."

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The Republican governor made the announcement Tuesday afternoon with his wife and two daughters by his side. He said it was time to step aside to allow others a chance to govern the state.

"I still have lots of energy and ideas. But being governor should not be a permanent position for someone," he said. "When it comes to how long someone should stay in an elected position, a little less is better than too much."

As for the timing of his announcement, Pawlenty said he wanted to give Republican candidates plenty of time to organize their campaigns. There also has been plenty of speculation that the Minnesota governor is eyeing a bid for the presidency in 2012. When asked about a possible presidential run, Pawlenty said he plans to concentrate on the remaining 19 months in office, but he did not close the door on a possible run.

"I don’t have any plans beyond serving out my term, and so I am not ruling anything in or out," Pawlenty told reporters.

Anderson called Pawlenty a man with high integrity and strongly held beliefs.

"If he announced he was running for president, I think he would be an excellent candidate and someone that I could definitely support," Anderson said.

Senate Minority Leader Dave Senjem, R-Rochester, said when he headed to the Capitol Tuesday morning he had no idea about the governor’s decision.

"I am surprised by the timing of his announcement. I thought it would be later on, and then I guess I thought he would run for one more term," Senjem said.

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News of Pawlenty’s decision was met with sadness and disappointment by some local Republicans. Former Chief Justice and state Lieutenant Gov. A.M. "Sandy" Keith of Rochester said he had planned to meet with the governor to urge him to run for one more term. Still, Keith said, he is not surprised by Pawlenty’s decision given the tough odds in Minnesota for governors seeking a third term.

"He has been a wonderful governor for Rochester," Keith said.

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