Two months ago the Republican delegates in SD 35 (of which I am one) voted to endorse activist (and, for purposes of full disclosure, my friend) Andy Aplikowski. However, Andy would have to overcome a GOP primary challenge from Jim Abeler, who served 16 years in the MN House before opting to run for U.S. Senate in 2014 (he was soundly defeated in that race's Republican primary).
Over the past several weeks I was asked by a number of my local political friends how I felt the campaign was progressing and if I had any sense of who would prevail. I always uttered the obvious retort by saying "It depends on turnout." That and the fact Abeler never had to win votes in Andover, which is a much more conservative part of the Senate District. If we can turn out enough people there to effectively offset purplish Anoka (Abeler's hometown, where he consistently dominated by 3 to 1 margins in prior elections), Andy might have a chance.
In the end, turnout in SD 35 was a paltry 10% of registered voters and Andy won ruby red Andover by a mere 3%.
For the record, Abeler moves on as the Republican candidate in the special election February 9 thanks to a 61% to 39% win in the GOP primary.
Low overall turnout and Aplikowski not dominating conservative Andover certainly were two main reasons Abeler prevailed. But perhaps the most significant factor was the open primary. Since there was only one Democrat candidate, there was no need for a lot of Dem voters to turn out and vote DFL. However, lefty voters know full well that SD 35 will not elect a Democrat in a general election, so a lot of Dems likely crossed over and voted in the GOP primary. As such, the lefty sentiment would clearly lean towards Abeler (who, in his MN House career, often voted to significantly increase spending) over the more conservative Aplikowski.
Regardless, Andy has nothing to hang his head over. The amount of work he put into winning the party endorsement as well as the number of doors he knocked in bitterly cold weather in an effort to contact voters was remarkable. While I find it highly unlikely Andy will ever run for elected office again, I know he will always be a champion for conservative causes. And any campaign he feels is worthy of his time will have the hardest working volunteer they could ever find.