Key Congressional Races Define Minnesota Primary

Key Congressional Races Define Minnesota Primary
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) speaks during an event in Minneapolis, Minn., on Nov. 3, 2020. (Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)
Jeff Louderback

As Minnesota voters head to the polls on Aug. 9, three pivotal U.S. House seats are among the races on the ballot, including the 1st Congressional District, which has a special election and a primary.

Mostly situated in rural southern Minnesota, the 1st District has the special election to fill the remainder of the late Republican U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn’s term.

Hagedorn was first elected in 2019. He died after a long battle with kidney cancer, his wife, Jennifer Carnahan, announced on Feb. 18.

Gov. Tim Walz, a Democrat and a former 1st Congressional District representative, announced details for the special election within the three-day window of Hagedorn’s death, as established by Minnesota law.

 President Donald Trump and GOP congressional candidate Jim Hagedorn appear at a Make America Great Again rally in Rochester, Minn., on Oct. 4, 2018. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)
President Donald Trump and GOP congressional candidate Jim Hagedorn appear at a Make America Great Again rally in Rochester, Minn., on Oct. 4, 2018. (Charlotte Cuthbertson/The Epoch Times)

Hagedorn won by less than one percentage point in 2018 before prevailing by 3 percentage points in 2020.

Candidates for the special election are Republican Brad Finstad and Democrat Jeff Ettinger.

If Finstad prevails, that will narrow the Democrats’ already slim majority in the U.S. House.

Finstad is a former state representative. Ettinger is the former CEO of Hormel Foods Corp. Each candidate advanced in their respective special election primaries in May.

They are also running in the second election for a full two-year term in November. In those races, they face challengers.

Finstad is opposed by state Rep. Jeremy Munson in the Republican primary. Finstad defeated Munson in the May special election primary.

George Kalberer and James Rainwater are also on the ballot with Ettinger in the Democratic primary.

On Aug. 8, Minnesota Secretary of State Steve Simon said that results for the special election might take longer to be released because it is a special election held on primary day and demands “more manual steps” from precinct staffers.

Counties have been instructed not to report the results until ballots from all the precincts are received. It could be Wednesday morning before it is known who wins the special election, the secretary of state’s office explained.

In the 5th Congressional District, U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar is opposed by former Minneapolis city council member Don Samuels in the Democratic primary.

Omar is one of the Democrats’ most progressive Congress members. Samuels says he is a moderate and that Omar’s progressive platform makes her divisive and ineffective.

Samuels has made Minnesota’s escalating crime rate a hot-button issue in the primary. A Jamaican immigrant, Samuels started to organize against gun violence after a bullet penetrated his Minneapolis home around 25 years ago.

Omar, 39, the first Somali-American elected to Congress, is a supporter of the "defund the police" movement. She backed a proposal to replace the Minneapolis Police Department with a new Department of Public Safety.

“That was the straw, actually, that kind of broke the camel's back for me, that the district wasn't going to be well served and that she could be in there for a long time,” Samuels, 73, told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

In November 2021, Minneapolis voters rejected the proposal in the wake of George Floyd’s death. Samuels advocated against the initiative.

If passed, the initiative would have removed a requirement from the city charter that the city have a police department with a minimum number of officers.

Supporters believed that a comprehensive overhaul of the police department was needed to reduce police violence.

Opponents argued that the proposal lacked a concrete plan about how to move forward and would have made many communities more vulnerable to crime.

Former Benton County Planning Commissioner A.J. Kern, business owner Albert Ross, and Nate Schluter are also on the 5th District ballot.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) and Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.)—other members of the progressive “squad” in Congress—advanced in their Democratic primaries last week.

Cicely Davis, who is endorsed by the state GOP, former NBA player Royce White, and Guy Gaskin are seeking the Republican primary victory.

In the St. Paul-anchored 4th District, 11-term U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) is facing a challenge from community organizer Amane Badhasso, a refugee from Ethiopia.

McCollum chairs an appropriations subcommittee that authors the Pentagon’s annual budget.

Badhasso has said that McCollum is not progressive enough.

Fasil Moghul is also on the Democratic primary ballot.

Gene Rechtzigel, Jerry Silver, and May Lor Xiong are running in the 4th District’s Republican primary.

Political analysts rate the district “solid Democratic” for the general election.

Republicans are hopeful that they can flip the 2nd and 3rd Congressional District seats that turned Democrat during the Trump administration.

Major party candidates are unopposed in the Aug. 9 primary.

In the 2nd District, Democratic Rep. Angie Craig (D-Minn.) and Republican retired U.S. Marine Tyler Kistner have a rematch.

Kistner was named to the National Republican Congressional Committee’s Young Guns program.

Craig is part of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee's Frontline program for vulnerable incumbents.

Rep. Dean Phillips (D-Minn.) appears to be in a safer spot in the 3rd District. He faces U.S. Navy veteran Tom Weiler in a heavily Democratic district.

Jeff Louderback covers news and features on the White House and executive agencies for The Epoch Times. He also reports on Senate and House elections. A professional journalist since 1990, Jeff has a versatile background that includes covering news and politics, business, professional and college sports, and lifestyle topics for regional and national media outlets.