Former Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Ramstad said today he's considering a run for governor in 2010. The self-described moderate said he hasn't made a decision about a possible run, but his entrance in the race would impact both parties.
The governor's race is seen as wide open for Democrats and Republicans because GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced earlier this month he won't seek a third term in 2010.
Ramstad delivered a speech to the League of Minnesota Cities today that appeared to be part pep rally, part campaign pitch.
"It's time for Congress and state officials to cut out the excess partisanship and the personal vitriol," said Ramstad. "It's time to govern from the center and do what's right for America."
Throughout his 30-minute speech, Ramstad focused on bipartisanship -- something he was known for during his 18 years in Congress. He talked about his efforts to pass a law that requires insurance companies to cover mental illness.
“It's time for Congress and state officials to cut out the excess partisanship and the personal vitriol.”Jim Ramstad
Ramstad also blasted some Republicans, like radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, for stoking the flames of partisanship.
"How can we take somebody seriously who said he hopes President Obama's economic policies fail, when so many American people are hurting?" Ramstad said. "How in the world can Dick Cheney say he would rather follow Rush Limbaugh than Colin Powell as the leader of our party, and that Colin Powell should be excommunicated?"
The theme of Ramstad's speech was the need for elected officials to work together. He cited former Republican governors Elmer Anderson, Al Quie, and Arne Carlson, but did not mention incumbent Republican Tim Pawlenty.
In an interview with reporters after his speech, Ramstad said people have urged him to run for governor, but he hasn't yet made up his mind.
"I've been very humbled by all of the encouragement from people in both parties and of all walks of life, but I'm not making any decisions at this time," said Ramstad. "I think it's way too early. People need a rest. They need a breather from politics."
Ramstad said he's held small "brainstorming meetings" with supporters about a possible run but didn't specify who those supporters are. When asked which party banner he would run under, Ramstad replied simply that he's a Republican.
Ramstad had high approval ratings during his 18 years representing Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District. From his first run for Congress in 1990 to his last run in 2006, Ramstad never got less than 63 percent of the vote in his suburban Minneapolis district.
"It would definitely shake up the race," said Kathryn Pearson, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota.
Pearson said Ramstad's stance as a moderate makes him politically popular among the middle-of-the-road people who typically vote in November elections.
But she said he may be too moderate to win the Republican Party's endorsement or a party primary. Pearson said Ramstad's stance on several issues, including his support for legal abortion, could make it hard for him to win support from party activists.
"He would face some real challenges," said Pearson. "I think it really depends on what the Republican field winds up looking like, and how the caucuses go, and who the delegates are and what types of appeals he would make to the delegates."
If Ramstad decides to enter the race, he'll be entering a crowded field. At least 10 Republicans have already jumped into the race or are thinking about it. There are also at least 10 DFLers who say they're running or are thinking about running, as well as a couple of Independence Party candidates.