Editorial Roundup: Divergent views of politics

Published 8:50 pm Friday, May 27, 2022

Tuesday’s special primary for the congressional seat vacated by the death of Jim Hagedorn was hardly the final word on the state of electoral politics in the Mankato region. It drew just over 56,000 voters, a fraction of the more than 368,000 who cast ballots in the race in the 2020 general election.

Still, even a low-turnout special primary can be informative, and this one certainly was.

The Republicans narrowly nominated former state Rep. Brad Finstad of rural Brown County for the August special election out of a field of 10 names. He prevailed over state Rep. Jeremy Munson, R-Lake Crystal, by a slim 389 votes in complete but unofficial returns — 37.99% of the GOP vote to 36.92%. A third perceived contender, Hagedorn’s widow Jennifer Carnahan, finished a distant third with just over 8%.

The outcome on the Democratic side was much more decisive. Retired Hormel CEO Jeff Ettinger topped 64 percent in that primary, with the remainder scattered among seven others.

But in a very real sense, this primary — and quite possibly the August primary for the general election, which will be run in parallel with the special election to fill Hagedorn’s term — was about what it means to be a Republican in 2022.

Ettinger, as one might expect of a man who once ran a Fortune 500 corporation, is not a candidate of the DFL base. While he has supported some Democrats (notably former 1st District congressman and current Gov. Tim Walz), he also supported Mitt Romney over Barack Obama in 2012. He now identifies as a Democrat because the Republican Party has lurched so sharply in the direction of authoritarianism.

Democratic voters had more progressive options in the field of eight. They chose Ettinger as the one who best represented the sprawling district as a whole — a big tent approach.

The GOP contest, largely fueled by Super PAC money, was in contrast a fight to select a candidate who best represented the party base as opposed to the district as a whole. Munson in particular essentially pledged to be the same obstructionist in Washington that he has been in St. Paul, an approach that has made him anathema to colleagues who aspire to actually get something done.

We may see Finstad vs. Munson II this summer for the general election nomination in a slightly different MN-1; another bid by Carnahan or the other also-rans seems less likely after this showing.

Hagedorn never drew a majority in either of his electoral wins, suggesting that he was about as far to the right as the GOP-leaning district would go. The midterms are shaping up as a good cycle for the Republicans, and the party has a built-in advantage anyway. The DFL’s best shot at reclaiming Walz’s old seat might be for the GOP to overplay its hand.

— Mankato Free Press, May 26

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Editorials from newspapers around the state of Minnesota.

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