Abeler to compete against GOP endorsee McFadden in Senate primary

Republican state Rep. Jim Abeler says he plans to move on to an August primary in the U.S. Senate race against endorsed GOP candidate Mike McFadden.

Abeler, a 16-year House member from Anoka, was knocked out of the Republican Party of Minnesota’s endorsement for the Senate race over the weekend after two rounds of balloting – but he wouldn’t commit to abiding by the process. On Tuesday, outside of a clinic in St. Paul, Abeler said he would move on to a primary and challenge the “status quo” candidate McFadden.

McFadden, a political newcomer and a businessman from Sunfish Lake, won the endorsement Saturday over five other candidates after 10 rounds of balloting.

In a release, the Abeler campaign acknowledged that the decision will “spark controversy” among many conservatives, but he questioned the endorsement process, which has produced candidates over the last two cycles who have not been able to win general elections.

His campaign said McFadden’s “lack of substantial political knowledge and experience” would make it hard for him to beat incumbent U.S. Sen. Al Franken this fall. Abeler touted his years of cutting health and human services budgets in the state House.

“The difference in political experience and qualifications between McFadden and Abeler is like night and day. McFadden is a first-time politician, while Abeler is widely thought to be one of the best healthcare legislative minds in St. Paul today,” the statement read. “His work as the chairman of the Health and Human Services Finance Committee turned out to be historic, as he secured major reforms, the largest tax cut, and the largest spending cuts in the history of Minnesota.”

McFadden has considerable resources behind his campaign, including the backing of the state party and $1.8 million in cash on hand. Abeler had just under $14,000 on hand as of the last reporting period. Franken has about $6 million in cash on hand.

Minnesotans will cast their primary votes on Aug. 12.

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