In a convoluted procedure to fill the seat of Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who died of illness in February, voters in southern Minnesota will pick candidates in a special primary this week.
Jennifer Carnahan, Hagedorn’s wife, is one of the GOP candidates running for the 1st District seat on Tuesday. She has launched a barrage of assaults in the last days of the campaign against two of her top primary opponents, state Rep. Jeremy Munson and former state Rep. Brad Finstad. She has dubbed them both “Establishment Republicans and the Washington Swamp” prisoners. And she claims that before he died, her husband made it obvious that he did not want Munson to succeed him.
Former President Donald Trump has not backed a candidate to replace the firmly pro-Trump Hagedorn, but Blue Earth’s Carnahan has been making the most overt pleas to Trump supporters. Her website is full with images and videos of her and Hagedorn with Trump, as well as her attendance at Trump’s 2020 campaign rallies.
After a senior contributor was indicted on child sex trafficking charges and former workers complained of a hostile work environment, Carnahan was driven out as head of the Republican Party of Minnesota in August. In a disagreement over money she loaned to assist cover Hagedorn’s medical costs, she was sued by Hagedorn’s mother, stepfather, and sister this month. She is, however, portraying herself as the greatest candidate to carry on her husband’s — and Trump’s — legacy.
Munson, a Lake Crystal resident, is the creator of a hard-right faction that split from the Minnesota House GOP Caucus. He is portraying himself as the most conservative candidate in the campaign. Senators Ted Cruz of Texas and Rand Paul of Kentucky, as well as Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Scott Perry of Pennsylvania, and Thomas Massie of Kentucky, and former U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, have all endorsed him. A photo of him at a Trump rally with Trump in the backdrop can be found on his website.
When the 1st District Republicans convened last month to try to support a candidate for the general election in November, Munson received 55 percent of the vote, but fell short of the needed 60 percent. The party hasn’t backed a candidate for the special primary or the special general election on Aug. 9 that will determine who will serve out the remainder of Hagedorn’s term.
Finstad, of New Ulm, has the support of many Minnesota Republicans, including United States Representatives Michelle Fischbach and Pete Stauber, as well as the Minnesota Police and Peace Officers Association. He’s also been keen to remind people that he was Trump’s Minnesota state director for USDA Rural Development.
Carnahan, on the other hand, has criticized Finstad for “liking” anti-Trump tweets and argues he’s a “squishy” Republican establishment figure who never actually supported Trump.
Agricultural attorney Matt Benda of Albert Lea and state Rep. Nels Pierson of Rochester are among the other Republicans on the ballot.
Former Hormel Foods CEO Jeffrey Ettinger of Austin, who currently leads the Hormel Foundation, is the Democratic Party’s favored candidate.
Richard Painter of Mendota Heights, a University of Minnesota law professor and former White House ethics counsel in President George W. Bush’s administration, is one of his opponents.
The special primary on Tuesday is projected to have a low turnout, and the procedure that will follow is difficult.
The special primary and special general election on Aug. 9 will take place inside the district’s current boundaries. However, normal primaries will be held in Minnesota on Aug. 9.
The winner of the special general election, which will extend Hagedorn’s tenure until January, will almost certainly also win the district’s normal primary on the same day. This should give him or her an edge in the general election in November, which will determine who will represent the state in the next Congress.
The district’s new court-adjusted borders will be used for both the primary and general elections. The district’s political balance hasn’t changed much as a result of redistricting this year, and it still leans Republican.