Tim Pawlenty officially announces run for governor

Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is officially running as a Republican to get his old job back, announcing another campaign for the state's executive office via a social media video Thursday afternoon.

"Putting Minnesotans in the middle first is a better way forward," his status on Facebook reads, along with a link to his new campaign website.

In the widely anticipated announcement Pawlenty hit on his two previous terms as governor, mentioning the "tough decisions" he made to balance the state's budget and the fact that Minnesota students jumped to No. 1 in ACT scores during his tenure.

"Even when times were tough we increased school funding, and we'll do it again," Pawlenty said. "But we're also going to hold schools accountable for better results."

He was originally elected in 2002 and has since served as president and CEO of Financial Services Roundtable, a lobbying firm catering to the financial services and banking industry.

On the Republican side, Pawlenty is facing the likes of former state GOP Chairman and Rep. Keith Downey, Woodbury Mayor Mary Guiliani Stephens, Hennepin County Commissioner Jeff Johnson, former U.S. Senate candidate Phillip Parrish and attorney Lance Johnson.

Democrats, meanwhile, slammed Pawlenty's campaign announcement in a series of public statements Thursday, especially his boasts of holding spending increases at historic lows for most of his eight years as governor and the $6.2 billion budget deficit left for current Gov. Mark Dayton when Pawlenty left office in 2011.

"[Pawlenty] deprived thousands of Minnesotans of affordable health care. He jeopardized our children’s education. He devastated our budget, and left roads and bridges across the state to crumble,” Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin said in a statement. “We need an honest leader who will fight to build a better Minnesota—not a Wall Street lobbyist who cares more about the wealthy than everyday families.”

Signals from both parties indicate the race will be one of the most expensive in state history, with a crowded field on both sides in addition to Pawlenty's proven record as a prolific fundraiser.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.