Former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton filed papers with the state on Friday to launch his campaign for governor in 2010, joining a growing list of DFLers seeking the office.

Dayton, 61, a Minneapolis DFLer who served one term in the U.S. Senate and did not seek reelection, said that as governor he would focus on improving funding for education and on refurbishing a state highway and road system "that is now starting to resemble ones I've been on in Third World countries."

Dayton said he will begin a statewide tour to listen to citizen concerns and seek support in what promises to be a crowded field. Dayton criticized Republican Gov. Pawlenty's plans for large tax cuts and credits to business as a way of combatting a $4.8 billion projected deficit, saying it continues a pattern of "cutting taxes for profitable businesses and making Minnesota schoolchildren and others pay the price for those cuts."

Dayton was elected to the Senate in 2000, defeating incumbent Republican Sen. Rod Grams. In early 2005, facing an uphill fight for reelection, he abruptly announced that he would give up his seat when his term expired in January 2007, criticizing the seniority-driven politics of the Senate but hinting even then that he was considering a run for governor.

Dayton's popularity took a big hit when he decided to temporarily close his Washington office in 2004, fearing a possible terrorist strike against the Capitol.

Before serving in the Senate, he served one term as state auditor.

In an interview Friday, Dayton said he believes he is better suited for service in the executive branch.

"It's a place to be more pro-active, to make things happen and get real results that benefit real people," he said.

Several other DFLers have expressed interest in running for governor in 2010. Five of them have filed paperwork: Sen. John Marty of Roseville; Sen. Tom Bakk of Cook; Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner; Rep. Paul Thissen of Minneapolis, and frequent candidate Ole Savior.

Others mentioned as possible DFL candidates include House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher of Minneapolis; Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak; St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman; former House Minority Leader Matt Entenza of St. Paul, and Assistant Senate Majority Leader Tarryl Clark of St. Cloud.

"We have a crowded field and a campaign is a proving ground, and my job is to go out and tell Democrats and then citizens in general why I'd be a better governor than the final field, and that's what the next two years are about," Dayton said.

An heir to the Dayton's department store fortune, Dayton said he would not self-finance his campaign and said the cost would be determined by how much his opponents spend.

"I do intend to raise the money from sources other than myself," he said.

Pawlenty, serving his second term in office, has not yet said what his plans are for reelection.

Mark Brunswick • 651-222-1636