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.