Hagedorn to challenge Walz in 2016

Hagedorn, a Blue Earth businessman, said he plans to organize a better campaign and raise more money this time around. The Republican said he’s entering the race 18 months ahead of the election in part to attract attention from the national donors who stayed on the sidelines last year.

In 2014, though, Hagedorn had fewer than three months to wage a general election campaign. He initially lost his party’s endorsement to Aaron Miller of Byron and dropped out of the race; but he got on the ballot by beating Miller in the August primary.

Hagedorn promised more of the same vigorous, grassroots campaigning that helped him win the primary.

“I’ll work hard to nullify natural advantages that an incumbent candidate has,” he said. 

Hagedorn noted he earned 45.7 percent of the vote in 2014, the highest percentage of any of Walz’s opponents. Randy Demmer, though, finished closer to Walz in 2010, when he came within 5.3 percentage points compared with 8.5 percentage points for Hagedorn.

This result was more striking, he said, considering he was outspent by a 6-to-1 ratio.

“As someone who’s studied politics, you always know if you achieve a strong result, you need to push it forward and try again,” Hagedorn said. He noted two Minnesota Congressmen, Reps. John Kline and Collin Peterson, lost to incumbents more than once before taking their seats.

Hagedorn sounded eager to draw contrasts between himself and Walz, the Mankato Democrat who will run for a sixth term in 2016.

He spoke first about Islamic terrorism, saying Walz refuses to call it by that name.

Hagedorn said refugees with anti-American and anti-Christian attitudes should not be allowed to emigrate to the United States. The result of this insufficient screening, he said, is that Minnesota has a terrorist recruitment problem.

Hagedorn also connected Walz with the government regulators in the Environmental Protection Agency and elsewhere who are “bogging down the economy.”

When asked to identify specific votes, Hagedorn cited Walz’s support for the Affordable Care Act, the imposition of EPA coal regulations and the estate tax for farmers (Hagedorn called it the death tax).

Hagedorn also criticized Walz’s opposition to the escalation of the Iraq conflict in 2007, better known as the surge.

Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin released a statement about Hagedorn, calling him a “two-time failed Congressional candidate and Washington insider who only moved to Minnesota to run for office.”

Hagedorn spent much of his career in Washington, D.C., including as an aide to former Rep. Arlan Stangeland and at the treasury department.

While Hagedorn is the first challenger to make a public announcement, state Rep. Tony Cornish of Vernon Center has explored the possibility. He said Tuesday he has yet to announce his decision, which could come as early as Wednesday.

Former opponent Miller told the Post-Bulletin of Rochester that he has not ruled out a run.

Jeremy Munson, chair of the Blue Earth County Republicans, said Hagedorn is a good candidate, though he hopes more Republicans step forward to help the party find the best person to take on Walz.

He acknowledged some Republican delegates may be a bit bitter about Hagedorn’s withdrawal from the 2014 race only to return and beat the candidate they endorsed. But there will be new faces, and Hagedorn travels the district a lot and frequently meets with Republican leaders, Munson said.

Carol Stevenson, Republican Party chairwoman for the 1st District, said: “There’s been a lot of healing that went on since then (the primary). His good performance in the general election, I think, serves him well.”

Divisions within a party just don’t last, she said, when the real goal is staring them in the face.