Jim Hagedorn is hoping the third time’s the charm. But the Republican needs to win a primary first.
Hagedorn is once again running for Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District seat, a race he lost by eight points in 2014 but came within 2,500 votes of winning in 2016. (He also ran in 2010 but dropped out after he didn’t receive the GOP endorsement.)
The man who beat Hagedorn, six-term congressman Tim Walz, is now running for governor, which Hagedorn believes could be the difference in 2018.
“You always want to do better,” said Hagedorn, who lost to Walz by 14 points in Winona County. “The congressman had some advantages of incumbency. Those advantages are deep. People recognized his name. He may have helped them. We’ve done our best to get over and shake hands and spend time here and make sure we keep making friends.”
Hagedorn, a businessman from Blue Earth and the district party’s endorsed candidate, will face a primary challenge from state Sen. Carla Nelson of Rochester, who announced she would be running in the primary regardless of who received the endorsement.
When asked the ways in which he was different from his challenger, Hagedorn pointed to some “fundamental issues” in a visit to the Winona Daily News on Thursday. He claimed he’s tougher on immigration and has been calling for a pause of the refugee resettlement program in the state while claiming Nelson’s support for an economic development bill for Somali communities put her on the other side. He also criticized her vote against an amendment that would make boys use the boys bathroom and girls use the girls bathroom in public schools, claiming it was an “activist position.”
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Nelson fought back on both claims. She said the bill Hagedorn mentioned never came to a vote and the reason for her vote on the amendment was because she didn't want the state to dictate school policy.
"Most Minnesotans, including myself, know that the best decisions come at the local level," she said.
Hagedorn also proudly recalled his early support of President Donald Trump, recalling the times when reporters would ask about the then-candidate’s position on this or that.
“They thought at the time it was a ‘Gotcha!’ thing, that you’re going to be in trouble if you support him,” Hagedorn said. “I told them I support him, and I think everyone should.”
Hagedorn’s support, however, isn’t blind loyalty. He said he disagreed with the omnibus spending bill — “the president said that’s the last one he’s going to sign, and I’m going to hold him to that” — and was concerned with trade negotiations taking money out of the pockets of local farmers.
“Tariffs are usually lucrative for the governments that are trying to impose them and the industries they are trying to protect,” Hagedorn said. “But that’s usually on a temporary basis. It wears thin after a while.”
Hagedorn said the president is in the middle of a negotiation, and he compared it to the denuclearization talks with North Korea.
“It’s going to be messy for a while,” Hagedorn said. “But the trust that I have, is that I hope he understands that in the end, you have to make it better for everybody. Hopefully, once he’s done negotiation, we’ll have better deals for steelworkers, farmers and consumers.”
Hagedorn said there are other ways for the federal government to help out farmers through regulatory reform and eliminating Obamacare, among other things.
Spotting differences between the winner of the Republican primary and the DFL candidate, which appears will be Dan Feehan, a former Department of Defense official in the Obama administration, won’t be too difficult.
Hagedorn said that both nationally and in Minnesota, Democrats want to transform America into a “European socialist state” through socialized medicine and gun control, among other things.
Hagedorn said he’s for enforcing the laws on the books and protecting the rights of gun owners. He recalled a story from a Twin Cities TV station that said the state has an all-time high of firearms ownership and conceal and carry permits, and is at a 50-year low for violent crimes.
“We’re showing the rest of the country how good people acting responsibly can make a difference,” he said.
He said Minnesota never needed Obamacare: “We had some good things going here, and that really messed things up for a lot of people, particularly farmers.”
No matter which side of the political aisle, one thing is for sure however: There’s going to be boatloads of money spent on this race, as many have called it one of the best chances for the Republicans to flip a congressional seat.
Feehan has raised nearly $835,000 and has $631,000 cash on hand, according to campaign finance reports. Hagedorn has raised nearly $810,000 and has $390,000 cash on hand — a sign that he’s had to spend in the primary while Feehan can wait for the general.
“They’ve been mailing it in from around the country for Dan,” Hagedorn claimed.
“The congressman had some advantages of incumbency. Those advantages are deep. People recognized his name. He may have helped them. We’ve done our best to get over and shake hands and spend time here and make sure we keep making friends.” Jim Hagedorn, 1st Congressional District candidate