WASHINGTON – Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty said Tuesday he will not run for the U.S. Senate this year, dashing Republican hopes that he would mount a strong bid for Al Franken’s old seat.
Minnesota’s going to be a “tough state for Republicans” to win in 2018, the Republican former governor told Fox Business during a Tuesday interview. Despite the pleas of GOP organizers who urged him to get into the race, and his own interest, Pawlenty nixed the idea.
“I am very interested in public service and service for the common good,” Pawlenty said during the interview. “There are a lot of different ways to do that, but I’ll tell you today running for the United States Senate in 2018 won’t be part of those plans.”
Pawlenty, who served two terms as Minnesota governor before launching a brief presidential bid, now works as a Washington lobbyist and CEO of the Financial Services Roundtable. The GOP leadership and party donors have been scrambling for a high-profile candidate to jump into the race to replace Franken, who resigned earlier this month amid accusations that he had harassed several women.
Pawlenty admitted that he had considered running and had been approached about a Senate bid, but shied away from the prospect of trying to mount a statewide campaign on short notice during a year that’s shaping up to be unfriendly for GOP candidates.
“If anybody’s going to run for the United States Senate, this November, that’s now only ... 10 months away,” he said. “It’s going to be a very competitive race in a tough state for Republicans.”
Pawlenty has also privately told some Republican donors and allies that he has considered running again for governor this year. He has not yet publicly ruled out that race.
Pawlenty’s announcement leaves state Sen. Karin Housley as the only Republican in the 2018 Senate race. Newly appointed DFL Sen. Tina Smith took office earlier this month and will spend the next 10 months serving in the Senate while running for the seat. The winner of the 2018 race will have to turn around and run again for a full term in 2020.
Republicans have not won a statewide race in Minnesota since Pawlenty was reelected governor in 2006. Former Sen. Norm Coleman, who lost the seat to Franken in 2008, has ruled out a run this year and so far House Republicans like Reps. Tom Emmer or Erik Paulsen have not entered the race. Former U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann, who also ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012, has said she’s considering a campaign for the Senate seat.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.