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Sviggum may seek top post

Steve Sviggum, a Kenyon Republican who represented southeastern Minnesota in the House of Representatives for more than 25 years, is contemplating a run for the governor's office.

"I do have an interest," Sviggum said Wednesday evening when asked if he might be among candidates to succeed Gov. Tim Pawlenty, who announced Tuesday that he will not seek a third term.

Sviggum, former Speaker of the House, currently serves in Pawlenty's cabinet as commissioner of the Department of Labor and Industry. Pawlenty appointed him to that post in July 2007; Sviggum had served in the House since 1979.

"I was surprised and personally disappointed" that Pawlenty has decided not to seek re-election, Sviggum said. "I hoped and I prayed he would run again."

He said he anticipates a crowded field of Republicans as well as Democrats in the 2010 race. From Sviggum's view, "nothing but good" will come of the wide interest in the office.

"I think the competitiveness will help the best candidates come forward," he said.

Because Pawlenty's announcement came as "kind of a surprise," Sviggum said he will take time to talk with his wife, Debra, and family - they have three children, Erik, Hans and Marit - as well as friends and supporters.

"I have an interest," he said, but he added that he needs to know whether others are interested in seeing him in the state's top post.

"I will keep talking to people," he said. Tuesday night, after Pawlenty's decision became public, he and his wife broached the topic. It had come up over the years, he said, but there's a big difference between hypothetical and reality.

It will take days, possibly weeks, to judge and analyze the situation and determine the validity of a campaign, Sviggum said. While there is no need to make an immediate decision, he pointed out, a candidate can't wait until fall to decide either.

Anyone who enters the race will need to get a campaign committee going because it'll need to raise "significant resources," he said.

Sviggum said he'll make a final decision by midsummer.

"It's a very positive opportunity," he said. "There's a lot of work involved." The current political situation in Minnesota could work in his favor, Sviggum suggested.

"Minnesotans like balance, in their lives and in their governing," he said. "If we're going to have a more liberal Democratic House and Senate ... they may look for the balance of a Republican governor."

It'll have to be the right candidate, though, he acknowledged - someone with Minnesota values, Minnesota principles and a vision for Minnesota's future.