NEW ULM - A crowd of 80 people packed the John Lind House in New Ulm on Thursday evening for a chance to schmooze with former Republican presidential candidate and Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty at the annual Cocktails with the Governor event.
Pawlenty, the 39th governor of Minnesota, was the guest of honor. The event is the major fund-raiser for the Lind House, and it also honors the memory of John Lind, a New Ulm resident and Minnesota's 16th governor.
A majority of guests were Pawlenty fans who took pictures with him or asked for his autograph. One vocal supporter was Mark Furth, the former general manager of the regional office of AMPI. He became a fan of Pawlenty after receiving his help following the 2004 fire that damaged the New Ulm AMPI butter plant. Pawlenty's effort in getting AMPI access to JOBZ was essential in keeping the plant in town.
Pawlenty encouraged people to remember the value of historic locations like the Lind House. He also said the memory of John Lind should serve to remind people that public service is still an honorable profession.
Pawlenty also took questions about his work for Mitt Romney's presidential campaign and his own political future.
When asked whether Romney's polling successes in Wisconsin meant likely success in Minnesota, he said he didn't think success in one state automatically translated to another. However, he said President Barack Obama and Romney were nearly tied across the nation, and that Obama's poor handling of the economy would ultimately pull Romney ahead.
Staff photo by Josh Moniz
New Ulm Mayor Bob Beussman presents a gift to former Gov. Tim Pawlenty on Thursday evening at the Lind House during the Cocktails with the Governor event.
He pegged jobs and the economy as being the major issues in the presidential race.
"Barack Obama made the deficit and debt way worse," said Pawlenty,"He had four years to put this economy in a positive direction. He hasn't done this. Now, people are looking to somebody else."
Pawlenty was also asked whether he was relieved to not be actively running for president given the ferocity of each side's campaigns.
"These side issues come and go, but most people focus on the bread and butter issues," said Pawlenty, "[My own campaign] was fun to do. I tried to bring my voice and ideas to the process, but obviously that didn't work."
Regarding his personal plans for the future, Pawlenty said he was happy simply helping Romney's campaign and focusing on his consulting work to get new businesses established.
For Pawlenty, nothing has been ruled in or out on his future public service career, noting he hasn't made a decision on a future career.
Regarding Republican politics, he said the new Tea Party-infused Republican majority that seized control of the Minnesota Legislature was good for healthy political competition. He said that despite the newer Republicans having a different style from his time at the Legislature, he considered their energy and intense commitment to principle to be typical of any large incoming group.
(Josh Moniz can be e-mailed at firstname.lastname@example.org)