By Mark Fischenich, Mankato Free Press - Republican-endorsed congressional candidate Jim Hagedorn of Blue Earth cruised to a victory over a token opponent in Tuesday's primary election, setting up a Nov. 8 rematch against Democratic Congressman Tim Walz of Mankato.
Steven Williams of rural Austin, who ran as an Independence Party candidate in a U.S. Senate race a decade ago, appeared to make little effort to generate votes in his run for Congress this year. And it showed in Tuesday's results with Hagedorn winning 77 percent of the vote with 90 percent of precincts reporting.
It was a markedly different contest than 2014, when Hagedorn and Republican-endorsed candidate Aaron Miller engaged in an intense primary battle. Hagedorn upset the Army veteran 54-46 percent. He was less successful in the general election, falling to Walz by an identical margin.
Watching primary election results come in at the local Republican headquarters in Mankato, Hagedorn was confident the general election outcome will be different in the rematch against Walz.
"This time around the party's unified," he said, conceding that there were hard feelings among some Republicans after he defeated Miller.
The son of former 1st District Congressman Tom Hagedorn, Jim Hagedorn said he also has more name recognition in 2016 and said his issues match the mood of many 1st District voters.
As he has for more than three years, Hagedorn is talking about vigorous efforts to block illegal immigration, ramping up the fight against terrorism at home and abroad, reducing the size and intrusiveness of government, supporting traditional social and religious values, and Second Amendment rights.
"Those issues today resonate way more strongly than they did even two years ago," Hagedorn said.
And he said he will be better able to fight Walz on the airwaves after spending virtually nothing to defeat Williams in the primary election.
"We already have raised more," he said. "We'll spend more on advertising."
Williams admitted he was doing no fundraising and spending minimal time on the campaign, saying he wanted to give voters a choice and hopefully make them think about some of his concerns about the American political system.
Walz, a 10-year incumbent and former Mankato West High School teacher and football coach, was unopposed in the primary election.