I was wrong.
State Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, said today that he’s retiring from the Minnesota House to campaign for U.S. Senate.
Abeler made the announcement to show supporters that he’s focused solely on his bid for the Senate. Up until now he has left open the possibility of running again for his House seat, even though he was competing to win the GOP nomination to run against DFL Sen. Al Franken. He said he made the decision to show Republican voters that he’s committed to his Senate campaign.
“If I don’t go ‘all-in’ then I may not get there,” Abeler said. “I think that Minnesota and Washington need me to be there to get after the problems that plague us and get after the divisions that are so rife.”
Since Abeler declared himself a candidate for US Senate about ten months ago, he has logged some pretty serious miles around the state. If you follow his Senate Facebook page, you would see how he is in a different part of the state six (sometimes seven) days per week, and oftentimes he'll hit 2-3 different towns/cities on any particular day. It was kind of hard to dispute that he wasn't "all-in" before Tuesday's announcement. On the flip side he's never gotten any traction in this race, evidenced by his paltry fundraising numbers as well as poor showings in various GOP straw polls. At last October's meeting of Republican State Central delegates, Abeler finished fifth and then on caucus night in February he came in fourth, just one slot behind "undecided."
Despite strong evidence that Abeler will not be the Republican nominee, he believes in his heart of hearts that he is the only viable candidate. At the end of the day that is all that matters.
In what I thought was a kind and gracious gesture, Abeler also used his announcement to throw support behind the endorsed Republican candidate for his House seat.
Republicans have already endorsed Abigail Whelan to run for his district 35A House seat, and Abeler says it was best he announce a decision.Over the past several elections cycles, Abeler rarely received a serious challenge from a DFLer, often winning in the general by double digits. In fact, he is the only Republican to consistently win precincts in the city of Anoka, which has definitely gone "purple" (maybe even lite blue) over the years. Given that Anoka makes up approximately 43% of 35A, Whelan can still win if she squeezes enough votes out of the city of Ramsey, which makes up the remaining 57% of the district. It'll simply boil down to turnout which, in a non-presidential year in the Obama era, favors Republicans.
“If people think that she’s a placeholder then that affects fundraising, it affects my focus, it affects people’s confidence that I’m really in this for real,” he said
Regardless of how you want to crunch the numbers, 35A may well be considered a "toss up" this election cycle. One hasn't been able to say that about this district literally this whole millennium.
Time to go to work.