Politics, Dan Feehan says, has become too much of “what you’re against” rather than “what you’re for.”
That’s why the DFL nominee for Congress in the 1st District is spending as much time as he can telling southern Minnesota about his platform and what he’s about rather than tear down his opponent. In a 15-minute interview with the Winona Daily News on Thursday, Feehan didn’t once mention his opponent — three-time GOP nominee Jim Hagedorn — or President Donald Trump or even the word “conservatives” or “Republicans.”
The 36-year-old Feehan, an Iraq War veteran and former Department of Defense official in the Obama administration, believes that kind of talk — pitting one side against another — leads to gridlock.
“It’s about ‘What are you for?’ said Feehan, whose parents, Patrick and Carrie, met while doing the play “Arsenic and Old Lace” at Winona State in the 1970s. “What are we for as Minnesotans? What I found is that people I talk with who are cynical about politics expect you to blame the other side. That flies in the face of my whole career. I’ve been a soldier, I’ve been a teacher. I worked in the Pentagon. You’re going to work with people you don’t agree with, but you have every bit of responsibility to get things done and not kick the can down the road.”
That’s not to say that Feehan’s platform is wildly different from any other Democrat looking to get elected in November. He talked about making health care more affordable, protecting the democracy from foreign involvement, making sure the country still has a strong military but one that is used judiciously and fighting for campaign finance reform.
But he said it needs to be done in a different way. Feehan is for universal health care — “A lot of other countries have figured this out … at some point, we’re going to figure this out” — but he knows it’s not going to be solved by one party alone.
“When you are engaging the other side from the beginning of the policy process — not the end, but the beginning — you learn that your ideas aren’t as good as you think they are and you humanize yourself to the other side. That’s something that is missing in Washington.”
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His background is similar to that of the man he’s trying to replace. Tim Walz was a former teacher and served in the military before spending 12 years as the 1st District representative in Congress, where he was considered someone who crossed party lines.
“I think I’m a better looking version,” Feehan joked.
Name recognition could be an issue for Feehan, who moved back to Minnesota last year. Hagedorn is running for the seat for the third time — fourth if you count a failed primary bid in 2010 — and in an election cycle that will see an open race for governor, two U.S. Senate races and a high-profile attorney general race, even die hards could have trouble keeping things straight.
“I think people will have a clear sense of not just who I am, but what we stand for, the message that we’re trying to convey,” Feehan said. “I think they’ll have a chance to get involved in the campaign and feel like it’s theirs.”
One way Feehan is trying to accomplish that is through what his campaign calls Service Saturdays, a call for anyone — Democrat or Republican — to join him for an hour or so of community service. Twice the campaign has helped at Winona Volunteer Services, including last Saturday.
“I think it’s important to recognize how divided it feels in 2018 and to find a way to be together,” Feehan said. “There’s work that needs to be done. I don’t care who you voted for, come on down, because at the end of the day, we serve each other.”
Winona Area Public Schools Board: At-large
Winona Area Public Schools Board: 1st District
Winona County Board: District 5
Minnesota Governor & Lt. Governor: DFL Primary
Minnesota Governor & Lt. Governor: Republican Primary
Minnesota U.S. Representative 1st District
Minnesota U.S. Senate Special Election
Minnesota U.S. Senate
Minnesota Attorney General
Wisconsin Governor Primary
Wisconsin U.S. Senate
Other notable results
Wisconsin State Senate District 31
Jeff Smith 8,477 votes; 49.66 percent
Steve Boe 4,468 votes; 26.18 percent
Jon Schultz 4,124 votes; 24.16 percent
“I think it’s important to recognize how divided it feels in 2018 and to find a way to be together.” Dan Feehan, DFL candidate, 1st Congressional District
“I think it’s important to recognize how divided it feels in 2018 and to find a way to be together.”
Dan Feehan, DFL candidate, 1st Congressional District
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