As House minority leader since 2006, Marty Seifert has been busy raising money, recruiting candidates and managing a caucus that now totals 47 members.
But Seifert, 37, says he can no longer fulfill those duties while also considering a run for governor. He'll step down from his leadership post June 24.
Seifert says he's "kicking the tires" and trying to gauge how much early support he might have for a 2010 campaign. He's just one of many Republicans doing the same thing right now. He says the more candidates, the better.
"I don't believe in coronations. And I think part of the problem we've had in some of the elections of the past is we've had coronations, not contests," said Seifert. "And I think contests sometimes bring out the interests of people and get the best ideas on the table."
Seifert says he's circled Sept. 19 on his calendar -- the day Minnesota Republicans will meet in St. Cloud for an off-year convention, and they could offer their early preferences among the candidates for governor.
Some House Republicans are scrambling to succeed Seifert as caucus leader, while others are testing the waters for their own campaigns for governor.
Rep. Laura Brod, R-New Prague, described Gov. Pawlenty as a model of reform to build upon. With Pawlenty not seeking a third term, Brod says the open seat is a rare opportunity.
"I'm sure that there's going to be many, many people looking at the lay of the land as we move forward. And we'll have to give some consideration to that myself," said Brod.
Former House Speaker Steve Sviggum is also giving the contest a look. Sviggum, who now serves as commissioner of the state Department of Labor and Industry, said he certainly would have some interest in running for governor.
Sviggum says he'll spend some time talking to friends and family members, and then make a decision.
"When you consider a statewide race, and putting together a campaign team, and raising the money that's involved ... it's a decision that probably, from a timing standpoint, you probably do need to make this summer, certainly before the fall, certainly before Labor Day," Sviggum said.
“This race was never really about whether Gov. Pawlenty was running or not, but what direction the state needs to head in.”Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis
Nearly a dozen names have already been mentioned as possible GOP candidates. Republican Sen. Geoff Michel of Edina says he's on that list because the office of governor may be the best job in politics. But Michel says it will take a lot of money to make a serious contest.
"I recall that Tim Pawlenty raised $4 million to win his last election. I think that's probably the floor now," said Michel. "And I think one of the things candidates will have to factor in here is probably raising double that. I think you're looking at an $8 million campaign."
Most Republicans said Pawlenty's announcement took them by surprise. But a long list of Democrats were already working toward 2010, with or without the incumbent.
Rep. Paul Thissen, DFL-Minneapolis, has been campaigning for governor since last fall. And from Thissen's perspective, Pawlenty's announcement doesn't change the dynamics of the contest.
"This race was never really about whether Gov. Pawlenty was running or not, but what direction the state needs to head in. And I think that remains to be the big issue of this race," said Thissen.
As many as 10 other Democrats are either running or are considering a run for governor.
The Independence Party of Minnesota will also have a candidate in the race. And based on the last three statewide elections, that third-party challenger could have a big impact on who wins.
IP Chairman Jack Uldrich says the list of possible candidates for 2010 includes Dean Barkley, Tim Penny and Stephen Williams. Uldrich says he also plans to talk to some business leaders and city mayors about joining the field.