MINNEAPOLIS -- Gov. Tim Pawlenty said good-bye to Minnesota Republicans Friday in his last speech to his party's convention, saying that that he is the first governor in three decades to drop Minnesota out of the 10 biggest taxing states.
That comment brought one of the biggest cheers of the day from 2,000 delegates and guests at the Minnesota Republican Convention in the Minneapolis Convention Center.
"We have reduced state government spending in real terms," Pawlenty said.
In a speech that mixed Minnesota and national issues, Pawlenty talked about less expensive government and criticized Democrats.
"If it moves, if you can imagine it, they want to tax it," he said. "Have you had enough?"
Pawlenty said his administration made the state the most veteran friendly in the country.
Reciting words sounding a lot like those heard in the Tea Party, which supports limited government and lower taxes, Pawlenty gave delegates what they wanted to hear.
"Our state is a great state, not because of politicians, but because the state is filled with very good people," the governor said.
It was the last speech Pawlenty, 49, would give to a GOP convention as governor.
Pawlenty was an Eagan City Council member before being elected to the Minnesota House, where he served 10 years. He was elected governor in 2002 after besting Brian Sullivan in a GOP endorsement contest and then edging Sen. Roger Moe and former U.S. Rep. Tim Penny in the general election.
He was re-elected in 2006. In both governor elections, Pawlenty received less than half of the vote.
The governor last year launched a political action committee to support Republican ideals and candidates nationwide, but most political observers say he is laying groundwork for a 2012 presidential run.
Speaker after convention speaker praised Pawlenty for his work adhering to conservative ideals.
"Thank God for Gov. Pawlenty," Senate Minority Leader David Senjem of Rochester said in a fiery speech shortly before the governor took the stage.
Republicans voted to set up a rerun of the 2006 state auditor's race.
Former State Auditor Pat Anderson will face incumbent Rebecca Otto in November after Anderson won a first-ballot victory late Thursday.
Anderson was auditor four years, but Otto beat her four years ago. Anderson, a former Eagan mayor who now lives in Dellwood, had planned to run for governor, but dropped out of what at the time was a crowded field to seek the auditor's post again.
Also in the race were state auditor's employee Jeff Wiita of Minnetonka and Mayor Randy Gilbert of Long Lake.
The party that usually calls for smaller taxes handily voted to keep the state income tax.
A late Thursday proposal for the party platform called for getting rid of the tax. However, delegates voted overwhelmingly against it.
Another delegate voted to eliminate the entire platform so the party could formulate one with "sound economic principles."
As the hour neared midnight, a delegate suggested that delegates were too tired to continue debating platform planks, and moved to table the platform for later in the convention. It passed easily.
U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann revved up GOP delegates by saying Democrats "are robbing us of our liberties."
Bachmann, a popular conservative spokeswoman, said that government is getting involved in "every aspect of our lives."
Don Davis works for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Bemidji Pioneer.