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Seifert 1st off blocks

House Minority Leader Marty Seifert of Marshall says he is looking into running for governor, the first Republican to make such an announcement since Gov. Tim Pawlenty said he is not running again. Tribune photo by Don Davis

ST. PAUL -- There's a whole lot of thinking going on.

Republicans across Minnesota are weighing the pros and cons of jumping into the governor's race now that Gov. Tim Pawlenty has bowed out.

Two western Minnesota state representatives -- Marty Seifert of Marshall and Morrie Lanning of Moorhead -- on Wednesday said they are thinking about it. Seifert said he is strongly considering it; Lanning was a bit less certain. They are the first of what is bound to be many possible GOP candidates in what promises to be a wild and expensive governor's race.

Around a dozen DFL'ers already are in -- or nearly in -- the governor's contest.

Seifert, the House minority leader, urged lots of Republicans to run. "One of the problems we have had in the past: We have had coronations, not competition."

A lack of candidates does not look like a problem. The prominent Republican blog Minnesota Democrats Exposed on Wednesday listed 18 politicians as likely GOP candidates, people ranging from former U.S. Sen. Rod Grams to long-time House Speaker Steve Sviggum.

But the blog missed some that are on other lists, including Lanning and former U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, who is being discussed as a potential candidate if the state Supreme Court rejects his efforts to win re-election.

Seifert was first out of the blocks with a near announcement. He called a news conference to announce he would resign from his House minority leader post, but keep his representative job.

Reporters' first question was about the governor's race, and Seifert said he was strongly considering it.

"Right now, I'm feeling very good about my support so far," Seifert said. "It's in Duluth. It's in the metro. Of course, it is back home as well."

The Marshall lawmaker announced he would leave his leadership job so he could devote time to his gubernatorial exploration. He would not say when he will make his final decision.

Seifert, in office since 1997, said he did not think it was fair to divide his time between his minority leader duties and running for governor. House Republicans already plan to meet June 24, so Seifert placed an election for his replacement on the agenda.

Lanning, Moorhead's mayor for 22 years before becoming a lawmaker in 2003, said that over the years, as with many politicians, he has considered potential options, including making a bid for governor. Pawlenty's announcement, he said, "opens the door for me to be thinking about that possibility" again.

He said he doesn't know when he will make a decision, but said it will be done after talks with family members and potential supporters.

Republicans hold a rare off-year convention in September, when Seifert said a straw poll could whittle down the candidate list.

Pawlenty on Tuesday said polls showed him doing well in Minnesota.

"I absolutely could have won a third term," he said, raising questions about whether a Pawlenty-like candidate is the party's best chance to win.

The two-term governor said he will work to get another Republican elected to the office, but "I'm certainly not going to pick a candidate now."

He said he expects "a lot of friends running against each other."