State Sen. John Marty has officially announced his campaign for Minnesota governor in 2010. The Roseville Democrat told supporters today he considers himself a "conservative progressive."
Appearing before supporters near the Capitol, Marty said as governor he would bring "ethical, far-sighted leadership instead of looking at the short-term popularity."
"Unfortunately Minnesota has been losing its way," Marty said. "Investment in the common good has been slipping. I think I'm a very frugal person with my own money, with other peoples' money, and being frugal sometimes means spending a little bit more now to save a lot more later."
Marty also told supporters he's not afraid to take on controversial issues. Marty is currently pushing a bill at the state capitol that would legalize gay marriage in Minnesota.
Marty ran unsuccessfully for governor in 1994. He joins an already crowded field of Democrats who say they're interested in the job.
The DFL candidates who have taken steps toward running are: state Sen. Tom Bakk, former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, former House Minority Leader Matt Entenza, Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner, former state Sen. Steve Kelley and state Rep. Paul Thissen.
Sen. Marty told a gathering of supporters why he's starting his campaign 20 months before the 2010 election.
"Two reasons, one a successful exploratory campaign; it just felt like the time was right to move forward," Marty said. "And number two, we think we've got a vision that stands out from other candidates."
Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty has declined to reveal whether he'll seek a third term, saying that announcement is months away. Pawlenty was asked Monday on Minnesota Public Radio whether he is gearing up for another campaign - either for his current job or president in 2012.
"My mindset seriously is on the middle of this session. I'm thinking about running for re-election as governor. If I do, people will reasonably expect that you serve out your term for governor, I understand that," Pawlenty said. "Those are the things that are on my mind, not running for president in 2012."
Regardless, Democratic interest in the governor's office is intense. The party last won a gubernatorial campaign in 1986.
Marty said he's starting his campaign now so he can organize supporters and raise money to compete with better-funded challengers. He swore off lobbyist and political action committee donations. He raised about $30,000 last year.
Marty labeled himself a "conservative progressive" who is willing to take principled stands on controversial issues.
After 22 years in the Senate, Marty is best known for legislation curbing lobbyist gifts to legislators, fighting sports stadium subsidies and promoting plans to guarantee access to health insurance. He also stands out for casting the sole Senate vote against state tax cuts in 2000 and sponsoring legislation this year that would legalize gay marriage.
His advocacy for gay marriage could help distinguish him at next year's Democratic endorsing convention. In 1994, he parlayed the endorsement into a Democratic primary victory.
That fall, however, then-Republican Gov. Arne Carlson rolled up a nearly 2-to-1 margin, defeating Marty by 505,000 votes.
Marty's biography on his Web site does not mention his 1994 nomination nor his stunted 1998 campaign.
"Sixteen years is a long time. I've learned and I've grown. I've actually got some gray hair now," Marty said when asked about the 1994 election.
St. Cloud State University political scientist Steve Frank said he doubts most Minnesotans remember Marty or his earlier defeat. But Frank said the party may be craving a fresh candidate after a string of losses.
"A candidate who has some experience but maybe someone who hasn't been so tied to the past, so tied to certain issues, presents a different face for the Democratic Party may have some initial advantages," Frank said.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)