Update: Finstad, Ettinger head to special election for Hagedorn seat

Published 10:03 pm Tuesday, May 24, 2022

MINNEAPOLIS — Republican former U.S Department of Agriculture official Brad Finstad will face Democratic former Hormel Foods chief executive Jeff Ettinger in an August special election to finish the term of the late Minnesota GOP U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn.

State Rep. Jeremy Munson conceded defeat Wednesday morning in the GOP special primary with Finstad ahead by a few hundred votes, or a little over 1 percentage point.

“I will work to slash inflation, get control of the border, restore American energy independence, and put our families first,” Finstad said in a statement. “Our district should not become a rubber stamp for the radical Democrat agenda that keeps kids out of classrooms, shuts small businesses down, and forces strict mandates on everyone but themselves.”

While the Aug. 9 special election will determine who will finish the last few months of Hagedorn’s term, the stakes are likely higher than that, with the winners expecting a bump in their chances to win a full term in November.

“We’re very excited. It’s really an honor to have the trust of the voters in the district,” Ettinger said after cruising to an easy victor Tuesday night. “I’m ready for the next stage of the race. I intend to offer the district a non-politician’s alternative — someone who will be inclusive and respectful in representing the district.”

Other Republican hopefuls included Hagedorn’s widow, Jennifer Carnahan, who finished a distant third. Finstad, Munson and Carnahan all played up their admiration for former President Donald Trump, who did not endorse in the race.

Finstad had support from establishment Republicans such as U.S. Reps. Michelle Fischbach and Pete Stauber of Minnesota. He also had the pedigree of serving in the Trump administration as state director for USDA Rural Development in Minnesota.

Munson, meanwhile, portrayed himself as the true conservative in the race, with national endorsements from hardliners such as Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Jim Jordan. He narrowly missed endorsement by 1st District Republicans last month.

Munson posted a statement on Facebook congratulating Finstad on his victory and pledged to support him in the special election to fill Hagedorn’s seat.

Carnahan brought baggage to the race, including being forced out as chairwoman of the state Republican Party last year after a prominent donor was indicted on sex-trafficking charges and former staffers complained of a toxic work environment. She also was sued by Hagedorn’s mother, stepfather and sister this month in a dispute over money they loaned to help cover his medical bills.

On the Democratic side, Ettinger, who is making his first foray into politics, outdistanced University of Minnesota law professor Richard Painter, a former White House ethics lawyer in President George W. Bush’s administration, and progressive activist Sarah Brakebill-Hacke.

The process that will follow Tuesday’s primary is complicated. The Aug. 9 special general election coincides with Minnesota’s statewide primary the same day.

The winner of the special general election, who will fill out the rest of Hagedorn’s term into January, presumably will also win the district’s regular primary that same day. That should give him an advantage heading into the November general election, which will determine who holds the seat in the next Congress.

The district stretches across Minnesota’s southern border, and is mostly rural and agricultural except for big population centers in Mankato and Rochester.