MINNEAPOLIS — Minnesota Rep. Tim Walz said Monday he will run for governor rather than seek re-election next year, creating an open seat in the Democratic congressman's Republican-leaning district.

Walz defeated Republican Jim Hagedorn by less than a percentage point in November in southern Minnesota's 1st District, where Republican Donald Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton by 15 points. Walz joins several Democrats hoping to replace Democratic Gov. Mark Dayton, who is retiring.

Walz announced his gubernatorial bid in an interview with the Post-Bulletin of Rochester, telling the newspaper he has shown he is willing to work across the aisle to get things done. A spokesman for Walz's gubernatorial campaign confirmed his decision to The Associated Press.

Walz — the top Democrat on the U.S. House Veterans Affairs Committee — first won election in 2006, defeating GOP incumbent Gil Gutknecht. Walz is a former teacher and coach at Mankato West High School, and he retired from the Army National Guard as a command sergeant major in 2005.

Hagedorn said Monday that the now-open U.S. House seat increases his determination after his better-than-expected showing against Walz in November, which followed defeats in 2010 and 2014. Hagedorn, whose father represented some of the area in Congress from 1975 to 1983, has spent much of his career in federal positions in Washington.

He noted the National Republican Congressional Committee last month included Walz and Nolan on its initial list of 36 targets for 2018.

"Tim Walz clearly realizes that it would be easier to run for governor than to defend the failed liberal policies of Nancy Pelosi," NRCC spokeswoman Maddie Anderson said in a statement Monday. "We fully expect this seat to be a top pick-up opportunity for Republicans in 2018."

Other Democrats running for governor are St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, state Rep. Erin Murphy and State Auditor Rebecca Otto. Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan has expressed interest.

No major Republicans have formally entered the race, but state House Speaker Kurt Daudt and Hennepin County Sheriff Rich Stanek have said they are considering it.

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