Election filing deadline: Unexpected challengers decide to run

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There were a few surprising political developments in Minnesota Tuesday, the last day that candidates who want to run for office on the November ballot could file their papers.

U.S. Senate

State Rep. Jim Abeler said he has decided to challenge businessman Mike McFadden in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate. McFadden won the state Republican Party endorsement for that office last weekend, beating out Abeler and three other candidates.

But Abeler said Tuesday he thinks Minnesota Republicans deserve a choice, and said he's the most qualified candidate for the office, according to the Star Tribune.

Abeler made his announcement Tuesday afternoon outside a health clinic in St. Paul, and unveiled a retrofitted ambulance that will serve as his campaign vehicle, MPR News reports.

Abeler will have a hard time matching McFadden's campaign war chest, which is already at $1.8 million.

The winner of the Aug. 12 primary will face incumbent Democratic Sen. Al Franken in November.

State Auditor

A surprising announcement came from former legislator Matt Entenza, who filed at the last minute to run for state auditor, MPR News reports. Surprising because he's a high-profile DFLer and is challenging the Democratic incumbent, Rebecca Otto. The two will meet in the August 12 primary.

Entenza served 12 years in the Minnesota House and was minority leader from 2003-2006. He ran for attorney general in 2006 but withdrew from that race before the election. He also ran unsuccessfully for governor in 2010. After that campaign, Entenza founded a progressive think tank called Minnesota 2020.

Entenza, of Worthington, said he's challenging Otto because he thinks the auditor should have a higher profile and be more aggressive about investigating wasteful spending, according to MPR News.

The primary winner will face Republican Randy Gilbert in the November election.

Attorney General 

Another former DFL lawmaker also filed for office Tuesday. Former Rep. Andy Dawkins of St. Paul joined the race for attorney general, but as a member of the Green Party. He's one of three candidates challenging incumbent Attorney General Lori Swanson, a DFLer.

Dawkins represented his St. Paul House district for 15 years and ran for mayor of St. Paul as a DFLer. He said he's running on the Green Party ticket because voters are looking for viable alternatives to the two main parties, the St. Paul Pioneer Press reports.

Dawkins said he wants to limit the influence of money in politics and fight to keep personal data private. He also said he supports legalizing "sensible" use of recreational marijuana, according to the Pioneer Press.

Swanson is seeking a third term in office. She could lose support of some more liberal voters to Dawkins and an Independence Party candidate, attorney Brandan Borgos, who is also an activist in favor of legalizing marijuana for recreational use, according to the Star Tribune.

But Ken Martin, the state DFL Party chairman, said he's not concerned.

"Attorney General Swanson is one of our highest vote-getters, and one of the most popular politicians we have on our ticket," Martin said, according to the Star Tribune.

The Republican candidate is state Sen. Scott Newman, from Hutchinson.

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