The Hopefuls: Jim Abeler, U.S. Senate candidate
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- June 24, 2013 - 12:26 PM
Republican state Rep. Jim Abeler wants to jump from the state House all the way to the United State Senate.
"I'm a kind of 'do it today' kind of guy, which I don’t sense coming out of Washington," Abeler said.
Asked why he didn't start his federal dreams with a run for the Sixth District U.S. House seat Rep. Michele Bachmann will not vie for next year, he joked: "Frankly, thought the Sixth would be far too easy."
Instead, "I thought what would be like way cool, you love to travel and you love Minnesota and what better way to see every city in the state of Minnesota?" he said lightly about the bid he had quietly contemplated for months.
Despite the jokes, he said he is very serious about his bid against Democratic U.S. Sen. Al Franken. Still in the process of putting together a campaign team, he said last week that he believes that his independent brand of politics could prove a winner in a statewide race.
"That’s called being from Anoka. That's how I was raised," the chiropractor said of his hometown. Anoka County gave half of its votes to Independence Party gubernatorial candidate for Jesse Ventura in 1998, which helped put the third party candidate over the top, and has been politically unpredictable for years.
He said that he was inspired to run, in part, because of his work on health and human services at the Capitol. He said in that area of the budget the state frequently bumps up against federal rules that keep good work from getting done.
"I think Republicans deep down want to solve problems and they want to be frugal," Abeler said. He marks with pride the cutting that the House did to Health and Human Services programs when he was chair.
Abeler, who endorsed Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul last year, said he believes in smaller government but, "you can’t get rid of it, as much as some people would like, but there's plenty of it and it's not working as well as it could." So, he said, he has worked to ask: "how do you manage it and how do focus it?"
He recently voted for both the House Human Services budget plan, which won him a spot on the conference committee that crafted the final plan, and several other DFL budget bills as they left the House floor. Famously, he was one of the 2008 "Override Six" -- the six Republicans who joined Democrats to override then-Gov. Tim Pawlenty's veto of a gas tax increase.
Abeler, who co-sponored more bills than any other member of the House this year, is also one of the rare Republicans to win union endorsement from both the Service Employees International Union and Education Minnesota. This year, he addressed the SEIU's gathering at the Capitol, telling them, "labor...is not a partisan issue."
His political profile has not always left him beloved by Republican activists. In 2008, after his gas tax vote, he was denied Republican Party endorsement and faced a primary. He won 63 percent of the vote in the primary.
And he keeps winning his district by wide margins every even numbered November. Last year, he netted 58 percent of the general election vote, more than any other Republican on the ballot in the district.
He said that despite the past difficulties, he is going to work very hard to win GOP endorsement for his U.S. Senate bid next year.
"I'm going to go to every district and talk to every Republican who will talk to me," Abeler said. He said he had not decided whether he would run in a primary if he does not get the endorsement.
As a sign of how earnestly he is taking his bid, the generally floppy-haired, casually dressed state representative noted that he got a haircut and donned a suit and tie for his campaign photos.
"That's how serious I am," Abeler said.
Abeler is the second Republican to announce a bid against Franken. Last month, Mike McFadden, who stepped down as co-chief executive officer of Lazard Middle Market to run, said would run for the U.S. Senate. State Sen. Julianne Ortman, R-Chanhassen, is also considering a bid for Senate.
"The Hopefuls" is an occasional series featuring candidates who are running for office in 2014.
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