WACONIA, Minn. -- In a city park on Saturday, Republican State Sen. Julianne Ortman formally launched her campaign for the U.S. Senate.

"I don't need to tell you something is very wrong in Washington, and we can't wait six years to get to the heart of the problem," Ortman told a crowd of well-wishers as she stood on an old fashioned gazebo.

"We need a strong, independent-minded woman," she added.

It wasn't the only time she mentioned her gender.

"I think I'm the best contrast to Al Franken," Ortman told reporters after her speech.

"I think being a mom from Chanhassen with the experiences I've had in my life makes me a great candidate to run against him."

Ortman is an attorney from Chanhassen and member of the command staff in the Hennepin County Sheriff's Office. She has spent 10 years in the state senate including a stint as chair of the Tax Committee.

The incumbent, Democrat Al Franken, has a 55 percent approval rating, according to the latest Star Tribune poll. He also holds a $3 million head start in campaign funds on hand as of July.

But Franken can't afford to take Ortmanfor granted, according to Larry Jacobs of the U of M's Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

"She's coming from the suburbs," Jacobs told KARE.

"She's got gender on her side which has been a problem for Al Franken in the past."

Larry Jacobs said Franken will also bear the brunt of anti-Obama sentiment in 2014.

"Senator Ortman may very well put together an anti-Obama campaign and an anti-Franken campaign, pinning a senator to a president who has dropping approval numbers."

Franken defeated incumbent Norm Coleman by a razor-thin margin in 2008, but wasn't sworn into office until July of 2009 after a protracted recount battle.

He has reached across the aisle to forge legislation with Republicans and authored the provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires insurers to refund excess profits to policy holders.

But Franken hasn't been interested in discussing the 2014 race to this point, let alone offer any opinions on his potential opponent.

Just to gain the opportunity to run against Franken, Ortman would have to win the GOP endorsement next May or the party primary on Aug. 12, 2014.

The GOP field already includes state Rep. Jim Abeler and political newcomer Mike McFadden.

Abeler is a chiropractor from Anoka, who has served 15 years in the State House. He serves on the pivotal House Health and Human Services committee and has served as its chair in the past.

McFadden is a business executive from Sunfish Lakes who previously headed Lazard Middle Market Advisory.

He has been endorsed by former senators Norm Coleman and Rod Grams, and as of July had raised $765,000.