Sen. Franken gets new GOP challenger in 2014 reelection bid

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) has an unexpected new challenger: Longtime Minnesota state Rep. Jim Abeler (R).

Abeler, who hadn't been publicly weighing a campaign, announced he would challenge Franken in an email to supporters Tuesday afternoon, touting a commitment to small government and personal privacy.

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"I am starting this run for U.S. Senate because I believe America is in trouble," he said in the statement. "The personal and religious freedoms that were intended for us by our Founding Fathers are being steadily eroded. Government spending is out of control and unsustainable. Massive debt to foreign countries threatens our sovereignty. Our children and grandchildren are born into a future as indentured debtors of our country's careless spending. When we are dependent on the government, we are absolutely not free."

The longtime legislator has a libertarian streak, and backed Ron Paul's 2012 presidential campaign. He also has bucked party leaders in the past, working with Democrats to override a gas tax veto from then-Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty (R) and earning support in the past from Minnesota's teachers union.

He joins self-funding businessman Mike McFadden (R) in the GOP primary. Polling shows Franken is in fairly strong shape for reelection despite his narrow win in 2008.