Editorial: Hagedorn’s change of heart won’t help GOP

Published 9:31 am Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Rep. Tim Walz must have a guardian angel. And a lucky rabbit’s foot. Perhaps his yard brims with four-leafed clover. Or maybe he’s made some sort of Faustian bargain. Whatever the reason, things just keep breaking his way.

Suffice to say the Democrat from Mankato should be giddy about the latest twist in the GOP’s effort to unseat him in Minnesota’s First District. Jim Hagedorn, who one month ago vowed to abide by the party’s endorsement of Aaron Miller, has changed his mind. That means Miller, a political newcomer from Byron, will have to spend at least some of his resources and time this summer campaigning against Hagedorn, rather than Walz, in preparation for a primary on Aug. 12.

It’s not as if Walz needs any help. With four terms under his belt in Congress, he enjoys all of the advantages of incumbency, including an established fundraising network and a campaign staff that’s been through the wars.

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And now, he’s been given what in sports is called a first-round bye. Walz can hang onto the money in his war chest and prepare his well-oiled campaign machine for mid-August, when either Miller or Hagedorn will emerge, battered and bloodied, from their sibling brawl.

The Post-Bulletin Editorial Board is not endorsing anyone right now (we never make endorsements in primaries), but we find it difficult to believe First District Republicans will look favorably upon a candidate who throws a wrench like this into the party’s gears. It’s one thing to change your mind, but it’s quite another to do so in a way that effectively nullifies the efforts of delegates and the party’s leadership.

In explaining his surprising announcement, Hagedorn says Miller has failed to fulfill his promise to run an aggressive, full-time campaign against Walz. We can’t speak to the veracity of that statement, but we’d politely point out that once a challenger receives the party’s endorsement, there’s going to be an inevitable lull, a respite in which the candidate focuses on raising money and puts together a districtwide campaign staff.

For all we know, Miller is developing an all-out, no-holds-barred assault on Tim Walz’s voting record. In fact, we’d be surprised if he weren’t — but May is hardly the time to launch salvos like that, not with the media’s attention focused on the final days of the legislative session.

We don’t know if Miller can mount a serious threat to Walz. But we’re certain Hagedorn has given Republicans an even steeper hill to climb in their effort to reclaim the First District seat.

— Rochester Post-Bulletin, May 21

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