Congressional challenger looks to bolster local support

By Justin R. Lessman, Jackson County Pilot - Though congressional challenger Jim Hagedorn won Jackson County in his 2014 race against U.S. Rep. Tim Walz, he came up short against the incumbent in six of the county’s 20 townships.

The Republican believes he can gain enough ground in those townships — and townships across the first congressional district — to unseat the five-term congressman in 2016.

“We did well in Jackson County in 2014,” said Hagedorn, the only announced Republican candidate for Congress in Minnesota’s first district thus far and the only person to run against Walz twice. “We can do better, and I believe we will. Our message continues to resonate with voters across the district.”

In 2014, Hagedorn received 46 percent of the districtwide vote to Walz’s 54 percent, the highest percentage of the vote ever recorded against the incumbent since his election in 2006. Jackson County voters preferred Hagedorn to Walz 53 percent to 47 percent, with only La Crosse, Weimer, Christiania, Kimball, Des Moines and Middletown townships preferring Walz.

“We’ve got strong support in Jackson County,” Hagedorn said on a campaign swing through Jackson last week. “We’ve got strong support from farmers and businesspeople and the rank and file people.”

Some of that support stems from the fact locals are sick and tired of the same old stuff coming out of Washington, D.C., Hagedorn said.

“The United States is in dire straits,” Hagedorn said, adding all presumed Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and Walz offer local voters is a third term of President Barack Obama’s failed policies. “Walz has had 10 years in Washington and we are worse off because of it. He had his shot.”

Another reason Hagedorn cites for his strong support locally is his accessibility.

“I think it’s important to get out and meet the people,” he said. “Last summer alone, I was at 21 county fairs and walked in 50 to 60 parades. Walz went to zero county fairs and a handful of parades. He doesn’t want to get back here; he doesn’t want to talk to his constituents. He’s a Washington guy who likes to pass the ball. He thinks he’s more than important than the people, and he’s wrong. He is a reason the country’s on the decline.”
Hagedorn said while the issues haven’t changed since the last campaign, the way people are looking at them has.

“We talked about security last time, but we weren’t talking about ISIS,” he said, referring to the terroristic Islamic State of Iraq and Syria group, “and we weren’t talking as much about border security.”

Hagedorn said he has never shied away from talking up the importance of his pro-life stance, but said it resonates with voters in a new way since undercover videos purporting to show troubling practices of Planned Parenthood surfaced last year.

And as more and more people see the disastrous effects of Obama’s Affordable Care Act, Hagedorn said, his long opposition to it only makes his candidacy more appealing to voters.

Walz voted for the ACA in 2010.