ST. PAUL -- A moderate Minnesota Republican known for his work on health care legislation plans a U.S. Senate campaign.

State Rep. Jim Abeler of Anoka Tuesday announced his intention to challenge Democratic Sen. Al Franken.

"Minnesota needs a senator from Minnesota who has invested his life in the fabric of the people who make our state great," Abeler said. "That senator must strongly protect our personal privacy and liberty, unlock the stifling stranglehold the federal government holds on Minnesota and recapture the flexibility we need to run our own state. I know I can be that senator."

Abeler said that government spending is out of control and the country is too dependent on government.

Despite being known for his work in health care during his 15-year state Legislature career, he barely mentioned the topic in his campaign announcement. But he did say: "In 2011, I led a strong, bipartisan effort to reform Minnesota's health and human services programs -- the fastest growing area in Minnesota's budget -- that resulted in improved programs and dramatic state savings."

Abeler got in trouble with Republican leaders when in 2008 he voted for a transportation tax increase. He held off a GOP challenger in his next re-election race.

Abeler, a chiropractor, enters a race in which Republicans have been slow to join. Twin Cities businessman Mike McFadden got into the race late last month and state Sen. Julianne Ortman of Chanhassen says she is considering it.

Polls show Franken, with a 51 percent approval rating, easily leads potential challengers 17 months before the election.