WCCO Behind the Ballot: First Congressional District Race

Walz is leaving, so Republicans have honed in to flip

Sloane Martin
October 20, 2018 - 1:38 pm
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The first installment of WCCO's Behind the Ballot explores the campaigns in Minnesota's first congressional district, which gubernatorial candidate Tim Walz is leaving after 12 years in office. It's a district Republicans nationally have eyed as one to flip -- and it could potentially decide control of congress.

The district including Rochester and Mankato is one of the most closely watched races in the nation, and a focus as high up as the White House, evidenced by President Trump's visit to Rochester Oct. 4. He implored the crowd to turn Minnesota red, something Republicans hope can happen with a victory by their candidate Jim Hagedorn against Democrat Dan Feehan. 

"This is supposed to be a Democrat state," Trump said. "I don't think so. I don't think so. I don't think so. They have a very big surprise coming, don't you think?"

Hagedorn has ran unsuccessfully the last three elections, losing back-to-back times he was on the ballot to Tim Walz, who's held the seat since 2006. But it's a vulnerable one for democrats. President Barack Obama won the district both times, but only Olmsted County narrowly went to Hillary Clinton in 2016, as Trump won the district handily 53 to 38 percent.

"They voted overwhelmingly for President Trump and they got me to 46.9 percent in the last election and we're going to finish the job in this one," Hagedorn said on WCCO recently.

Hagedorn, who grew up on a farm in Truman, has embraced Trump and his policies. He supports the wall at the Mexican border and repeal of the Affordable Care Act. Though he said he's "not a fan of tariffs," he praised the president for doing the "right thing" in the long term. 

The DFL candidate Feehan is an Army combat veteran from Red Wing who served in Iraq. In a debate aired on Minnesota Public Radio, he touted himself as an independent voice.  

"Time spent as a solider, as a teacher working at the Pentagon taught me that you're going to have to work with people that you don't agree with," he said. "That's what the hard work is."

Feehan is more critical of tariffs, wants more people to have access to Medicare and supports immigration reform that leads to a path to citizenship.