Republicans in the Minnesota House have elected Rep. Kurt Zellers as their new minority leader.
The 47-member caucus elected Zellers, a Republican from Maple Grove, last night after four ballots. Zellers defeated Rep. Randy Demmer of Hayfield for the post.
Zellers said he plans to start raising money and recruiting candidates for the 2010 election.
He said it's critical to act soon, since every member of the Legislature and four constitutional offices are on the ballot.
"It's going to be a very, very competitive market," Zellers said. "The next three months is when I'm working the hardest, because that's when a lot of these folks are maybe going to decide not to get in or get in."
Zellers said House Republicans will focus on low taxes and limited government in the next legislative session.
"We're going to respect the taxpayer dollars that they give us," he said. "This is hard times for a lot of people. We need to be respectful and we need to treat those dollars extremely, extremely precious."
Democrats hold a wide margin over Republicans in the House, but Zellers said his caucus will stick together to stop Gov. Pawlenty's vetoes from being overridden by DFLers.
Zellers, 39, replaces Marty Seifert, who is exploring a run for governor.
Zellers said he would remain neutral on the governor's race for now, with a handful of GOP House members among the wide-open field.
"We have a great bench," Zellers said. "I wouldn't want to deprive anyone of the fun of getting into the race."
Zellers is an account executive with a Minneapolis public relations firm. He started in politics as a campaign volunteer and built his career helping other politicians with communication work.
He grew up near Devils Lake, N.D. and played football at the University of North Dakota before moving to the Twin Cities after college.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)