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Bakk forms governor committee

ST. PAUL - State Sen. Tom Bakk has become the second Democrat to file paperwork establishing a governor campaign committee for the 2010 election.

However, he said in a Wednesday interview, the committee is only to allow him to investigate a candidacy. He said he plans to make a decision by the end of the year.

"I would characterize it as an exploratory committee," Bakk said via telephone from his Canadian cabin.

A key to whether he runs will be whether he can gain support of small businessmen, he said.

"One of the things I want to do is see if I am the kind of a Democrat who can appeal to small town business owners," the Cook senator said.

Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party candidates have not been successful courting the business community, Bakk said. However, the Senate Taxes Committee chairman and long-time union carpenter said, he has a lot in common with business owners.

The only major-party candidate to announce a run for governor in 2010 is Ramsey County Attorney Susan Gaertner of White Bear Lake.

Bakk said he needs the campaign committee so he can spend money investigating the race. Otherwise, he is limited to spending $100.

"I could not drive to Bemidji and back without spending $100," he said.

The senator said he has three issues to examine before he decides whether he will run:

-- If he can raise enough money, which could reach $2.5 million.

-- Whether he can attract enough state convention delegates for an endorsement, which he will investigate at the 2008 DFL convention next week in Rochester.

-- How to devise the right campaign strategy to win, including attracting businessmen.

State Republican Chairman Ron Carey said he is not surprised that Bakk and Gaertner need an early start for 2010.

"They are total unknowns," Carey said.

The GOP chairman said that if Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty runs for a third term, he would win.

At least a dozen Democrats either have said they are interested in running for governor or others have promoted their candidacies - including former U.S. Sen. Mark Dayton, House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak.

Through the recently completed legislative session, Bakk admitted he was considering running for governor, but said he would not decide until later in the year.

"I have had an incredible number of people over the course of the session come to me and say they want to help" financially, Bakk said. "I haven't asked anyone to help because I want to see if it is something I can put together."

Bakk is serving his second Senate term, but first was elected to the House in 1994. He represents part of Duluth and a large territory of northeastern Minnesota.

If he decides to run for governor, he would have to give up a safe Senate seat.

"I am in a pretty good position in the Senate, being chairman of the Senate Tax Committee," Bakk said. "I am not just looking for something else to do."

It is a tough decision, he added. "I would be 56. It is kind of late to start a new career for me."

However, he added, he could be willing to give up his Senate position because he is concerned about Minnesota.

Bakk's committee is entitled: "Bakk - Minnesota's next governor."

Don Davis
Don Davis has been the Forum Communications Minnesota Capitol Bureau chief since 2001, covering state government and politics for two dozen newspapers in the state. Don also blogs at Capital Chatter on Areavoices.