Race for 1st District seat already heating up

By Heather J. Carlson, postbulletin.com - The 2016 elections are still a year and a half away, but several Republicans are already eyeing a run against 1st District DFL Rep. Tim Walz.

Blue Earth Republican Jim Hagedorn announced Tuesday he'll make a third run for the congressional seat. Not ruling out a run is Byron Army veteran Aaron Miller. On the other hand, state Rep. Tony Cornish, of Good Thunder, announced today that he is not running for the seat.

First District Republicans Chairwoman Carol Stevenson said as far as she is concerned, the earlier candidates jump into the race, the better.

"I think it's great that people are announcing or considering announcing," Stevenson said. "Campaigns take a lot of money and it takes awhile to fundraise."

Hagedorn seeks 2016 rematch

Southern Minnesota Republicans have tried unsuccessfully for nearly a decade to unseat Walz, a high school teacher from Mankato. Hagedorn said he wanted to announce his candidacy early so he would have plenty of time to raise money and campaign ahead of the November 2016 election.

"Sometimes it takes more than one run on the ballot in order to get as well known as you need to be and raise the kind of funding you need to and continue to meet with people and get your message out," he said.

Hagedorn made his first bid for the seat in 2010 but dropped out after failing to win the Republican Party's endorsement. Four years later, he lost the party's endorsement to Byron Army veteran Aaron Miller. After initially dropping out of the race, Hagedorn jumped back in six weeks after the endorsing convention and went on to win an upset victory over Miller in the August Republican Primary. He ended up losing to Walz 54 percent to 46 percent.

Still, Hagedorn sees a reason for optimism in his loss. He received the highest percentage of the vote of any challenger who has taken on Walz.

During the campaign, Hagedorn said he will focus on the need to defend the U.S. from terrorists, get rid of excessive regulations, support family farms and secure the nation's borders. He said a major concern is the increase of immigrants coming into the country illegally, which is resulting in "a downward pressure on wages and it is making people have a hard time getting good jobs."

Asked if he plans to abide by the Republican endorsement, Hagedorn said he will work to win over GOP delegates, but he's not making any pledges at this time.

Hagedorn, 52, is the son of former Minnesota Congressman Tom Hagedorn. He previously worked for Minnesota Congressman Arlan Stangeland and for the U.S. Treasury Department. Hagedorn moved back to Minnesota in 2009. He worked in business for awhile but has since retired.

In response to Hagedorn's announcement, Minnesota DFL Chairman Ken Martin said, "Jim Hagedorn is a two-time failed congressional candidate and Washington insider who only moved to Minnesota to run for office. He made it clear in 2014 that his priority is toeing the Tea Party line and partisan politics."

Walz pulled off an election upset of his own in 2005 when he defeated Rochester Republican Gil Gutknecht. The Mankato Democrat served 24 years in the Army National Guard and is the highest ranking enlisted soldier ever to serve in Congress.

A look at the field

Cornish, 64, is a retired game warden and former Lake Crystal police chief, has served in the Minnesota House since 2003. Just days after Walz won re-election last November, Cornish announced he was considering a run for the seat.

But this morning he said he likes his state legislative work and is apprehensive about the fundraising required in a Congressional run.

"I've never gone on the phone yet and called anybody for money so that is something that would really rub my farm-boy pride."

Miller, 45, is currently chairman of the Republican Party of Olmsted County. He works for rEVO Biologics and spent more than 28 years in the U.S. Army.

"We've had folks that are trying to encourage us to jump in. We're not ruling anything out right now," Miller said. "I think there is still a lot of time over the summer to make that decision."