Outspoken and colorful Republican legislator Marty Seifert made it official Tuesday, announcing he is entering the race for governor in 2010 to create jobs and expand economic opportunity in Minnesota.

"The times call for leadership and for solutions," said Seifert, who made the announcement before several dozen cheering supporters at a semiconductor plant in Fridley. His wife, Traci, and their two young children listened nearby.

Seifert left immediately on a four-day campaign kickoff that will take him to 13 cities outside the metro area, where he hopes to distinguish himself in a field of Republican candidates that has been growing since Gov. Tim Pawlenty announced last month that he will not seek a third term.

No Minnesota governor has been elected from outside the Twin Cities metro area since the mid-1980s. But Seifert, 37, a seven-term House member from Marshall who stepped down last month as minority leader to consider a gubernatorial bid, said he didn't think his rural background would make a difference to urban and suburban voters worried about their economic future.

"They're looking for a leader. I don't think they care about your ZIP code," he said.

Roots inspired decision

In fact, Seifert said his middle-class farming roots in southwestern Minnesota -- where he said he learned the value of a dollar while picking cucumbers to make pickles, selling ice cream and delivering pizza -- inspired his decision to seek the governor's office.

Such home-grown values, he said, are "missing from our government today. I intend to make sure that, from top to bottom, our government reflects those values."

Seifert said his top priority as governor would be promoting business expansion. Taxes need to be restructured and reined in, he said, and excessive regulations should be loosened or eliminated to encourage job growth. He promised to veto bills funding pork or wasteful programs.

As minority leader in the House the past three years, Seifert has led a small GOP caucus whose ability to uphold nearly all of Pawlenty's vetoes has proven pivotal in a series of bruising legislative sessions. Seifert pledged Tuesday to "bring the conversation [at the Capitol] back from the far, far left to the center-right, where it belongs."

Seifert said he will abide by the party's endorsement and won't seek to wrest it away in the primary election. He added that he was leaning against running for reelection to his House seat if his gubernatorial bid fails, but hasn't yet made a decision.

A number of other Republican legislators have said they are running for governor or weighing the race. Those who have announced include Reps. Paul Kohls, of Victoria and Tom Emmer, of Delano, Sen. Mike Jungbauerm of East Bethelm and former Rep. Bill Haasm of Champlin. The field of candidates is expected to get more crowded before the GOP state convention in September.

Kevin Duchschere • 651-292-0164