Gov. Pawlenty had the most lopsided primary victory of the three, getting nearly 90 percent of the Republican primary vote over Minneapolis bar owner Sue Jeffers.
At a GOP celebration in Woodbury, Pawlenty said the November election will be a tougher fight. He says groups working to defeat him will likely spend millions of dollars. Pawlenty says the campaign could boil down to DFLer Mike Hatch arguing that Minnesota is going in the wrong direction, while he'll offer a rosier assessment.
"We're moving in a very positive direction in so many indicators, with school test scores, the health of our people, lowest rate of uninsured, making some progress with more to do on transportation, nation-leading health care reform and many others. So he basically needs to convince Minnesotans that everything stinks, and it doesn't," Pawlenty said.
Hatch isn't talking about the same indicators as Pawlenty. He told DFL activists at a St. Paul bar that under Pawlenty's leadership, college tuition has gone up 50 percent, health care premiums are also up 50 percent and property taxes have increased a similar amount in many areas of the state.
"We can do so much better," Hatch said. "The mandate of this state has always been -- be it Democrat, Republican or independent governor -- was that we make it better for the next generation. We make sure that our kids have the best quality education, K-12. We make sure that they get financial as well as geographic access to our colleges. We make sure they've got access to affordable health care."
Hatch told reporters that Pawlenty is a governor who has "put lipstick on a pig and tried to claim that he's made a difference." Hatch has focused his attacks on Pawlenty since he entered the race, and he didn't spend much energy or money on the primary. Still, he easily beat his primary challenger, state Sen. Becky Lourey, who got about a quarter of the DFL primary vote.
Lourey's 16-year career at the Capitol now ends, and many of her supporters were in tears at a St. Paul cafe after the results came in. Lourey says she has no regrets about her campaign for governor.
"We really believe -- all of us here in this room -- that we have advanced the debate, that we have brought information to the public, and that the voters will hold us all to a higher standard of truth and honesty," she told her supporters.
Lourey was the only candidate to call for raising taxes on upper-income Minnesotans to pay for education and health-care programs.
The third major-party-endorsed candidate -- Peter Hutchinson of the Independence Party -- had the smallest margin of victory of the three races, but it still wasn't close. He got about two thirds of the IP vote over political activist Pam Ellison. Hutchinson immediately charged both Pawlenty and Hatch with ducking debates.
"Why is it that Tim Pawlenty and Mike Hatch are afraid to come out from behind their TV commercials and actually debate in front of the people of Minnesota, and talk face to face about the issues we face and the performance of this failed administration?" he asked.
Pawlenty and Hatch say there will be plenty of debates before November, starting with one on Thursday sponsored by the Minnesota Chamber of Commerce.