Feb 28, 2022 - Politics

Candidate filing to begin in Minnesota special election for Congress

minnesota map with first congressional district shown
The 1st Congressional District. Credit: Maura Losch/Axios

Four years ago, the fight for southern Minnesota's 1st Congressional District was one of the closest U.S. House races in the nation.

  • Now, a special election will test the one-time swing seat's battleground status in the current political environment.

Driving the news: Candidate filing begins Tuesday for the May 24 special primary to fill out the current term following the Feb. 17 death of U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn.

The big picture: The outcome could be seen as a bellwether for the November midterms, when control of Congress hangs in the balance.

State of play: Hagedorn flipped the district by less than a percentage point β€” about 1,300 votes β€” in 2018, ending more than a decade of DFL control after former U.S. Rep. Tim Walz left Congress to run for governor.

  • In 2020, Hagedorn won a rematch against Democrat Dan Feehan by 3 points, with a third-party candidate in the mix. Former President Donald Trump, meanwhile, carried the district by double digits.

Between the lines: Even with population growth in urban centers friendly to the DFL, national political headwinds could tip the scales even more in Republicans' favor.

  • Plus: The Aug. 9 special election coincides with potentially competitive GOP primaries for governor and other statewide offices, which could boost turnout on the right.

Who's in: State Rep. Jeremy Munson, a member of the conservative New House Republican Caucus, filed paperwork and had a campaign site in waiting last week.

Likely contenders: Brad Finstad, a former state representative and USDA state director for rural development, is expected to join the race.

  • Former Minnesota Republican Party Chair Jennifer Carnahan, the late congressman's wife, is also seen as a potential candidate.
  • Carnahan, who left her party post amid controversy last fall, declined comment on her plans, saying she's focused on the funeral.

The intrigue: Feehan is weighing another run, according to Jim Hepworth, chair of the 1st Congressional District DFL.

  • Whether he gets in could signal whether Democrats think the seat is truly in play. Feehan hasn't commented publicly on his plans.

Hepworth said several other Democrats have reached out and are considering a campaign.

Who's out: GOP state Sens. Julie Rosen of Fairmount and Carla Nelson of Rochester both ruled out a run. So did Austin City Council member Jason Baskin, also a Republican.

The bottom line: Signs point to an advantage for Republicans, but the final field β€” including which candidate emerges from the GOP primary β€” will determine how competitive the race becomes.

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