ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) _ Former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is running for his old job.

The two-term governor announced Thursday he's entering the 2018 race after months of speculation and taking concrete steps toward a run. He's immediately a top competitor in a crowded Republican field that has struggled with fundraising.

Pawlenty brings widespread recognition in Minnesota and unparalleled fundraising ability in the race to replace outgoing Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton. But his five years lobbying in Washington for the nation's biggest banks also brings political risk.

It's a shot at a return to politics for Pawlenty, who left office in 2011 and ran a short-lived 2012 presidential campaign. He declined calls to run for the U.S. Senate earlier this year.