Last month, longtime GOP activist Andy Aplikowski was the first to declare his candidacy in our Senate District. He is definitely a viable conservative, someone whom I wouldn't label a "settle for" candidate.
The latest potential entrant into the SD35 race is a familiar name to those of us in Ramsey and Anoka.
Jim Abeler, an Anoka Republican who stepped down from the Legislature at the start of this year after 16 years in the state House and an unsuccessful U.S. Senate bid, is eyeing a political comeback.
Abeler announced via Twitter Monday morning that he's likely to run for Senate District 35 in 2016. The district includes Anoka, Champlin (Incorrect. Ramsey is part of the district, not Champlin - ed.), Andover and northern parts of Coon Rapids. The current senator, Republican Branden Petersen, recently said he would not seek re-election.
"Compared with a person who would come in brand new, I think I could immediately be effective on major issues," Abeler told the Star Tribune. "That would be true if I was in majority or the minority."
Translation: Abeler is just as likely to vote with the DFL as he is with Republicans. And that would be fine and dandy if he were running in, say, a Senate District within an urban area. However, that's not the type of representation which best reflects all of SD35.
While serving in the MN House, about 45% of Abeler's House District (HD35A) was made up of Anoka, which can be characterized as purple/lite blue. Given that makeup, Abeler's voting record was more in line with his HD. However, the other half of SD35 is made up of House District 35B (Andover, northeast Ramsey, northern Coon Rapids) where staunchly conservative GOP candidates (i.e. Sen. Petersen and Rep. Peggy Scott) consistently win by double digits. So to my original point, we don't have to settle for a professed moderate like Abeler.
Abeler was something of a maverick in his legislative career. He was one of only a handful of Republicans who voted in 2008 to override a gas tax veto by GOP Gov. Tim Pawlenty. Abeler also became closely involved with funding decisions around health and public assistance programs, where he was known for a willingness to work across party lines.
No way Abeler gets the endorsement of GOP delegates at our local convention early next year. So I guess that begs the question of will he go to a primary? I would bet "yes" since he was willing to do so in the 2014 U.S. Senate race despite minuscule support from state Republican delegates and paltry fundraising numbers. A state senate district campaign will seem like a cakewalk in comparison.