ST. PAUL, Minn. — Democratic gubernatorial hopeful Tim Walz has picked a running mate for his 2018 bid.

Walz named state Rep. Peggy Flanagan to his ticket late Thursday night. Flanagan is a second-term lawmaker from St. Louis Park with strong connections to Democratic activists.

It’s the first pick for a potential lieutenant governor before the race for an open governor’s seat heats up. Flanagan’s selection gives Walz’s candidacy a liberal tilt that he’ll need for an endorsement battle next year among a crowded field of Democrats.

Walz is a six-term congressman from southwestern Minnesota representing a district that leans slightly Republican. He says he’ll rely on Flanagan’s knowledge and expertise.

More than 14 candidates are in the running to replace Gov. Mark Dayton, who will leave office in 2019.