Race heats up for 1st District RepublicansPublished 9:13am Monday, May 26, 2014
A block vote by Rochester Republicans is what gave Byron businessman Aaron Miller the 1st District Republican nomination at a convention in early April in Albert Lea, not whether he was the most qualified.
That’s according to Blue Earth businessman Jim Hagedorn, who sat down with the Tribune for an interview Friday.
Hagedorn re-entered the race May 18, stating nominee Miller had failed to lead a full-time campaign against incumbent DFLer Tim Walz of Mankato. Hagedorn said he had been asked by several Republicans to rejoin the race. He now faces Miller in the August primary election.
There were three candidates at the convention: Miller, Hagedorn and Rochester state Rep. Mike Benson. Convention rules dictated that the nominee receive at least 60 percent. All three had pledged to abide by the convention decision, and the Republican Party in general was looking to present a more civil convention than the 14-hour grind that happened in 2012 in Mankato.
The 2014 convention took place April 5 at Southwest Middle School. On the first ballot, Hagedorn and Miller were tied, and Benson was in third place. He remained in third on the second ballot and dropped out. The result of the third ballot, which came at about 2 p.m., handed 56 percent to Miller and 44 percent to Hagedorn. At that point, Hagedorn stepped to the podium and asked for a motion to give Miller the nomination unanimously. A motion was made, and Jim Hahn, co-chairman of the convention, called for a rising vote. Everyone stood, and Miller was the Republican nominee.
On Friday, however, Hagedorn charged that Miller has failed to run a race against Walz.
“Nothing happened,” Hagedorn said, “that’s the point.”
The Miller campaign said Hagedorn shows a lack of character for rejoining the race.
Miller campaign manager Joe Meyer said his candidate has been running a full-time campaign since Day 1. Meyer said Hagedorn needed an excuse to get back in the race.
Hagedorn said Miller only garnered the nomination because the Rochester delegation wanted someone closer to their city, rather than selecting the candidate with the best hope of beating Walz.
Meyer said Hagedorn had charged falsely that Miller was campaigning part-time.
“If people thought he were working half-time and Aaron still beat Jim, what does that say about Jim Hagedorn,” Meyer said.
Asked if he needs to catch up, Hagedorn said in some ways he is ahead of Miller because he had been running an issue-based campaign against Walz prior to the convention. He said plans to keep his focus on Walz.
Hagedorn’s father was a four-term congressman in the 1970s and early 1980s, and Hagedorn worked in the halls of Washington.
“People know the Hagedorn name,” he said.
The DFL Party was quick to point out that Aaron Miller’s fundraising efforts were lagging and noting his absence.
“Since being endorsed by the Republican Party, Aaron Miller hasn’t made remarks at a single public event,” said an April 24 DFL news release. “Miller is trying to run, but he can’t hide his radical Tea Party views from southern Minnesotans.”
Meyer said the campaign fundraising has picked up significantly since the last reporting deadline in April and said Hagedorn’s re-entry has not slowed contributions.
Hagedorn added that he was surprised Miller didn’t show up at the dedication of a VA clinic in Albert Lea on April 25.
Meyer said Miller is a military veteran who didn’t want to turn a respectful ceremony into a political event.