Jim Hagedorn has won the Republican nomination for Minnesota’s 1st District, hoping the third time is the charm to win the highly competitive seat.
With 88 percent of precincts reporting, Hagedorn led state Sen. Carla Nelson 60 percent to 33 percent, when The Associated Press called the race.
Hagedorn came within a point of defeating Democratic-Farmer-Labor Rep. Tim Walz in 2016, and now that it’s an open seat — Walz is running for governor — Republicans see a top pickup opportunity.
Hagedorn will face DFL nominee Dan Feehan, an Iraq War veteran and former Pentagon official, who coasted in his primary Tuesday. Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales rates the race a Toss-up.
The 1st District GOP endorsed Hagedorn at its convention in April, but Nelson decided to continue her campaign and picked up the support of female members of Congress, as well as the National Rifle Association and influential donors such as Richard Uihlein and Paul Singer.
She was endorsed by Republican women’s groups, but the new group Winning for Women, which has made small digital buys in a few GOP primaries this year, did not make any independent expenditures for her.
Hagedorn, who’s engaged to the chairwoman of the Minnesota GOP, ran with the backing of members of the state’s GOP delegation such as Reps. Tom Emmer and Erik Paulsen, and former Rep. John Kline. Emmer’s chief of staff is running Hagedorn’s campaign. The Minnesota GOP has been running his ground game in the 1st District, chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan told Roll Call last week.
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But some national Republicans are concerned that Hagedorn will jeopardize their chances in a seat that President Donald Trump carried by 15 points in 2016.
As a blogger, he wrote disparaging comments about women and Native Americans that surfaced in his 2014 campaign and could easily fuel Democratic attacks this year.
When Arizona Sen. John McCain picked former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate during the 2008 presidential, Hagedorn wrote: “On behalf of all red-blooded American men: THANK YOU SENATOR McCAIN, SARAH’S HOT!”
“If someone wants to run a political correctness and identity politics campaign against us, we’ll see what happens,” Hagedorn told Roll Call last week when asked whether those comments would prove a liability in this race.
Hagedorn has struggled to raise money in the past. But national Republicans say he’s running a better campaign than he did two years ago. He’d raised $850,000 by July 25, the end of the pre-primary reporting period, compared to $209,000 at the same point in 2016. Feehan ended the pre-primary period with $734,000 in the bank.
Hagedorn, whose father, Tom Hagerdorn, previously served in Congress, spent much of his childhood and early career in Washington. He first ran for the 1st District in 2010 but dropped out of the race after failing to get the GOP endorsement. In 2014, he defeated the candidate with the GOP endorsement in the primary but went on to lose to Walz by 9 points in a good year for Republicans nationally.