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Tracking Minnesota’s political scene and keeping you up-to-date on those elected to serve you

Jim Abeler, longtime state rep who ran for U.S. Senate, eyes state Senate seat

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, 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."

Abeler, 61, is a chiropractor by trade, and he also worked as a contract lobbyist in this year's legislative session. In 2014, he did not seek re-election to his House seat and instead ran in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate, but lost to endorsed GOP candidate Mike McFadden. 

Though well-known in the district, Abeler faces Republican opposition as he tries to get back in the Legislature. Andy Aplikowski, a longtime GOP activist from Andover, has already launched a campaign

"Taxing, spending and regulations in this state are making it harder and harder for a business owner like me to make ends meet," said Aplikowski, 40, who with his mother owns and runs a New Brighton manufactured housing community. 

Aplikowski's wife works for the Republican caucus of the state Senate. 

Several other area Republicans are considering the race, according to a story last month in MinnPost. That includes Rep. Abigail Whelan, who succeeded Abeler, and former state Rep. Kathy Tingelstad. The district's voters have tended to favor Republicans in recent decades. 

Abeler initially said he was not likely to run again. But he said Monday that his thinking changed over the last month.

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. 

Gov. Mark Dayton again calls for special legislative session to deal with walleye crisis

Gov. Mark Dayton acknowledged at a news conference today the tough times for the Lake Mille Lacs walleye fishing industry with the end of the season today due to severe population decline. 

"I also believe this is the beginning of a brighter future for walleye fishing on Mille Lacs, which has been the tradition of the lake and the reputation of the lake and which will return again," Dayton said. 

Dayton said he will talk to legislative leaders today. A working group of administration officials, legislators and those affected by the halt of walleye fishing will begin meeting to discuss a plan, and Dayton said he wants legislators to return to a special session the week after next to approve an aid package. 

The package could include zero interest loans or programs to refinance existing loans, property tax abatement and more marketing for Lake Mille Lacs. Dayton said grants of cash to the 100 or so tourism related businesses are unlikely. 

Dayton said again he has confidence in his commissioner of the Department of Natural Resources, Tom Landwehr, but that he expects changes at the local DNR office. "A lot of people in DNR need a course in customer, constituent relations," Dayton said. 

Landwehr said they are already forming a plan to improve relations with people in the region and specifically the sport fishing community, which is a $2.4 billion industry statewide, he said. 

Landwehr also said the next few years should help restore the walleye population because 2013 was an excellent spawning year on the lake. 

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