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New Pawlenty job changes Minnesota politics

ST. PAUL – Scratch Tim Pawlenty’s name off the potential candidate list.

At least for two years.

The former Republican Minnesota governor accepted a job at The Financial Services Roundtable, a key Washington lobbying group that paid its last leader $1.8 million a year.

In taking the job as president and chief executive officer, Pawlenty also said he would leave as GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s campaign co-chairman, not accept a Cabinet position and stay out of elective politics for at least two years.

After Pawlenty ended his short presidential run last year and Romney skipped over him as running mate, Minnesota speculation was heavy on Pawlenty challenging U.S. Sen. Al Franken in 2014.

That now appears unlikely to happen, and if all goes well for Pawlenty he could stick to the lucrative Washington lobbying scene after twice losing out as a vice presidential candidate.

Speculation now turns to who Republicans could put up as a Franken challenger.

Absentee voting open

Minnesotans may cast absentee ballots now, and may go online for a sneak peek at how those ballots will look.

Absentee voting continues until the day before the Nov. 6 election. State law limits the use of absentee ballots for specific cases, such as a voter being gone on Election Day.

Voters may cast absentee ballots in person at county auditor offices, and in some city clerk offices. Or they may request mail absentee ballots.

“Almost 300,000 Minnesotans will vote by absentee ballot this election,” Secretary of State Mark Ritchie said. “Absentee voters, including military personnel deployed overseas, may now track their ballots online to make sure that their ballots arrive on time and are counted.”

Voting information, including how to track absentee ballots, is at The Web site also provides a look at each voter’s ballot by clicking “my ballot.”

A gasoline issue

Republicans strongly disagree with a federal Environmental Protection Agency requirement that customers must buy at least four gallons of gasoline at some pumps.

Gasoline tanks on some motorcycles and other small engines do not hold four gallons, they say.

“The EPA has no business telling Americans how much fuel they must purchase,” GOP House members Chip Cravaack of Minnesota and Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin wrote in a letter to the EPA chief.

The new rule applies to pumps that use the same hose for the newly approved 15-percent ethanol blend, known as E15, and the long-available 10-percent blend. The EPA instituted the rule because if a customer buys just one gallon of E10, for instance, there may be enough E15 left in the hose to give the fuel a higher concentration of ethanol than small-engine manufactures say is safe.

Some gasoline stations may have dedicated hoses for E15 and would not fall under the EPA mandate.