WASHINGTON -- Outgoing Republican Rep. John Kline said he tried extremely hard to talk Minnesota's former first lady Mary Pawlenty to run for his Second Congressional District seat -- unsuccessfully, it turns out.

Kline said he is officially staying neutral on the four, and counting, Republicans running so far but that he would have thrown full support behind Pawlenty, a one-time state judge and current private mediator in Eden Prairie.

She is also married to Tim Pawlenty, Minnesota's former Republican governor.

"I am staying out of it right now because there needs to be some shuffling," Kline said, in an interview this week from his Capitol Hill office. "I think more people will get in. They need to sort of show how credible they are. I will tell you very bluntly if Mary Pawlenty had gotten in, this would be done. I would have jumped out to support her in a minute. She has virtually 100 percent name ID, high credibility as a judge in her own right and former first lady. But she didn't get in, try as I did to get her to run."

Currently there are seven people running for the suburban Congressional district seat south and west of the Twin Cities. There are three Democrats, two of whom have donated large sums of money to themselves, and four Republicans. The district is widely considered to be a "swing" district, which means it can sway either Republican or Democrat.

Kline said he expects the race to be "big dollar" -- meaning outside groups are likely to invest heavily in their own special interests.

"It will be a very visible race," he said. "I'm pretty sure that both parties will have credible candidates."

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