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Minn. Independence Party not in 2012 Senate race

The Associated Press

The Minnesota third party that factored prominently into recent top-of-the-ticket races doesn't plan to actively seek a U.S. Senate candidate for next year.

Independence Party Chairman Mark Jenkins said Thursday that the party is fine leaving the two major parties to go at it. Democratic Sen. Amy Klobuchar is after a second term and three Republicans are seeking their party nomination.

"In my years with the Independence Party I've always seen the Senate race as a distraction from having our best and brightest engaged in state legislative races," Jenkins said.

He added that his party plans to spend 2012 concentrating on electing at least five candidates to the Minnesota Legislature and building congressional-district infrastructure for the 2014 election.

The Independence Party has had major-party status _ and the automatic ballot access that comes with it _ since clearing a performance threshold in a 1994 statewide race. It started as the Reform Party and saw its crowning achievement in 1998 with the election of Jesse Ventura as Minnesota governor.