Not long ago, former state representative and U.S. Senate candidate Jim Abeler made it clear he would consider returning to politics to represent state Senate District 53 in Anoka. Today Abeler, a Republican, made it official with an announcement that he will kick off his campaign October 6.
Republicans have represented the district, which includes Anoka, Ramsey, Andover, and Coon Rapids, for multiple election cycles. Sen. Branden Petersen, a popular incumbent, announced this summer that he would not run again for the senate seat to pursue non-political career goals.
Several names have surfaced as possible contenders. At one point there were a dozen names that insiders said were considering the seat. But, the competition for the Republican endorsement appears to have narrowed.
Besides Abeler, the seat has one other announced candidate, Republican activist Andy Aplikowski who is vice-chair of the sixth congressional district. Aplikowski is a neighbor, friend, and admirer of Petersen, a libertarian-leaning conservative who was the only Republican senator to vote in favor of same-sex marriage in 2013.
Abeler was also known as a Republican with an independent streak during his 16 years as state representative. He was one of six Republican legislators who, in 2008, voted to override Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto of a transportation funding bill.
Both Abeler and Aplikowski list the state budget as their top concern and frame the issue with similar language, stating that it’s a matter of setting priorities not raising taxes.