Governor Tom Vilsack says he will not endorse a candidate in the race for the Democrat’s 2006 nomination for governor. “It’s going to be a very good, hard, tough campaign in our party and that’s a good thing,” Vilsack says. “The winner who emerges from this process will be battle-tested…I’m going to remain neutral in this race. All of these Democrats who are considering (running for governor), or thinking about it, are all friends of mine and I’ve got nothing but respect for all of them.” Vilsack’s own Department of Economic Development director has just resigned to start running for governor, and sources say Vilsack encouraged Michael Blouin (BLEW-in) to make the move. While Vilsack claims neutrality, you can hear for yourself that the governor and Blouin recite the same job creation stats to tout Blouin’s record. “Over 369 companies helped during the last two and a half years during his tenure as director…over 20,400 jobs created or retained,” Vilsack said in Pleasant Hill. Moments later, a few miles away in Des Moines, Blouin was an echo. “In the two-and-a-half years since I’ve been appointed to the department, we’ve assisted in 369 projects to recreate or retain 20,410 jobs for Iowa families,” Blouin said. Blouin’s resignation from his job as D-E-D director is effective at the close of business Friday, and Vilsack says it’ll be difficult to replace him. Vilsack says Blouin has helped turn the state’s economy “in the right direction.” In 1998, Vilsack became the first Democratic governor elected in Iowa in 30 years. Republicans Robert Ray and Terry Branstad held the governor’s office for three decades.