Republican Abeler to retire from MN House to focus on U.S. Senate run

State Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, announced he’s not seeking re-election to the Minnesota House and will focus on his campaign for U.S. Senate.  Tom Scheck/MPR News

State Rep. Jim Abeler, R-Anoka, said today that he’s retiring from the Minnesota House to campaign for U.S. Senate.

Abeler made the announcement to show supporters that he’s focused solely on his bid for the Senate.  Up until now he has left open the possibility of running again for his House seat, even though he was competing to win the GOP nomination to run against DFL Sen. Al Franken. He said he made the decision to show Republican voters that he’s committed to his Senate campaign.

“If I don’t go ‘all-in’ then I may not get there,” Abeler said. “I think that Minnesota and Washington need me to be there to get after the problems that plague us and get after the divisions that are so rife.”

Abeler says it’s likely that he’ll run in the Republican primary if he doesn’t win party endorsement. There are at least five other Republicans seeking to challenge Franken in November.

Republicans have already endorsed Abigail Whelan to run for his district 35A House seat, and Abeler says it was best he announce a decision.

“If people think that she’s a placeholder then that affects fundraising, it affects my focus, it affects people’s confidence that I’m really in this for real,” he said.

Abeler has been in the the state House for 16 years. He is best known in the Legislature for his work on issues involving health and human services programs.

He chaired the House Health and Human Services Finance Committee in 2011-2012. He is also one of the Republican House members of the “override six” who voted to override Republican Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s veto of a gas tax increase in 2008.