First test in chase for open Minnesota seat in Congress

May 24, 2022

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A slew of candidates hoping to win the Minnesota congressional seat vacated by the late Rep. Jim Hagedorn get their first test before voters on Tuesday.

The winners of Republican and Democratic primaries will meet in August to determine who will finish the last few months of Hagedorn’s term. The stakes are likely higher than that, though, with the winners likely to see a bump in their chances to win a full term later in November.

Republican hopefuls include Hagedorn’s widow, Jennifer Carnahan; state Rep. Jeremy Munson; and former state Rep. Brad Finstad. All three played up their admiration for former President Donald Trump while trying to set themselves apart from their rivals.

Trump did not endorse in the race.

Carnahan brought baggage to the race, including being forced out as chairwoman of the state Republican Party last year after a prominent donor was indicted on sex-trafficking charges and former staffers complained of a toxic work environment. She also was sued by Hagedorn’s mother, stepfather and sister this month in a dispute over money they loaned to help cover his medical bills.

Munson portrayed himself as the true conservative in the race, with national endorsements from figures such as Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Jim Jordan. He narrowly missed endorsement by 1st District Republicans last month.

Finstad, meanwhile, had support from establishment Republicans such as U.S. Reps. Michelle Fischbach and Pete Stauber of Minnesota. He also had the pedigree of serving in the Trump administration as state director for USDA Rural Development in Minnesota.

The perceived frontrunner on the Democratic side was former Hormel Foods CEO Jeffrey Ettinger, a political neophyte who raised significantly more money than a handful of rivals. Those included University of Minnesota law professor Richard Painter, a former White House ethics lawyer in President George W. Bush’s administration.

The process that will follow Tuesday’s primary is complicated. The winners will run in an Aug. 9 special general election that coincides with Minnesota’s statewide primary the same day.

The winner of the special general election, who will fill out the rest of Hagedorn’s term into January, presumably will also win the district’s regular primary that same day. That should give him or her an advantage heading into the November general election, which will determine who holds the seat in the next Congress.

The seat stretches across Minnesota’s southern border, and is mostly rural and agricultural except for big population centers in Mankato and Rochester.