WASHINGTON — When they head to the polls on August 9, most voters in Minnesota 1st The congressional district may receive one of the most confusing ballots they will ever be asked to fill out.
Most will receive a ballot that gives voters – on its second page – the choice between Republican Brad Finstad and Democrat Jeff Ettinger to fill the remaining months of former Republican Representative Jim Hagedorn’s term, who died in February. Voters will also be asked to choose from several candidates to be their party’s choice to run in the November general election, which will decide who will represent the district in the next Congress, which will be sworn in in early January.
Ettinger, James Rainwater and George Kalberer are the Democratic picks and Finstad and Munson are the Republican picks. Also on the ballot are two candidates from two parties to legalize marijuana in the state.
1st The district spans southern Minnesota along the Iowa border and includes Rochester, Austin, and Mankato. But some voters who live in the part of the district that was removed by redistricting this year will only be offered one chance to vote in the special election. And those who live in areas added to the district — Goodhue and Wabasha counties — by the boundary changes will only be able to vote in the primary.
But wait. This is not the end of the confusion.
Munson, who narrowly lost in the May primary for the special election to Finstad, wants his former GOP rival to win the special election and plans to vote for him to try to keep the seat in Republican hands. . But Munson doesn’t think Finstad should hold the seat more than about four months into Hagedorn’s term.
Munson, 46, is a state representative who lives on a farm in Lake Crystal. He runs to the right of Finstad and would appreciate an endorsement from Trump. He also says that if he had served in this Congress, he would not have certified President Joe Biden’s election victory in 2020. Finstad said he would have voted to certify Biden’s victory.
“We’re aligned with Trump supporters,” Munson said.
Munson was heavily criticized by the Minnesota Republican Party for continuing to challenge Finstad. Munson maintains that the special election and the primary for the general election are “two separate elections,” in two slightly differently configured constituencies. He also said that although he caved to Finstad in the special election, he never said he would not try to run for Congress again.
Finstad campaign spokesman David Fitzsimmons said the candidate was focused on defeating Ettinger, not Munson.
Meanwhile, Finstad, 46, who could not be interviewed for this story, sent an email instead that said, in part, “Americans are reeling from the sticker shock of liberal policies pushed by Biden. and Pelosi, including record price increases for gas, food, and basic necessities.
“Reducing inflation and improving our economy will be my number one priority in Congress,” Finstad said in his email.
Unlike Finstad, who attributes this year’s rise in inflation to the policies of Biden and congressional Democrats, Munson said both parties were to blame – Republicans for cutting taxes and Democrats for what it says to be too much government spending.
He is campaigning stealthily, making himself known to his supporters and those who supported other GOP candidates in the May primary for the special election through emails and social media.
But Ettinger’s campaign has a much higher profile. He is currently running an ad called “Robots” that aims to win over independent voters and disgruntled Republicans.
“The last thing we need is another career politician who is more interested in blindly following his party than working to get results for Southern Minnesota,” Ettinger said in the ad.
He also says it’s time for congressional leaders from both parties – House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Rep. Kevin McCarthy R-CA), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) “to step aside and make room for new leaders who are committed to getting things done rather than playing political games in Washington.”
Ettinger, a former Hormel executive who lives in Austin and has put at least $400,000 of his own money into the race and loaned his campaign an additional $500,000, is running in a district considered by political analysts to be Republican in completely safe. But the district has been represented by Democrats before, most recently by Tim Walz, before successfully running for governor.
“I absolutely think it’s a purple neighborhood,” Ettinger said.
Having supported the Republican in the past, Ettinger now embraces the Democratic Party.
“For me, Trump was the dividing line,” he said.
But Ettinger, 63, is a very moderate Democrat. He said if elected he planned to join the “Problem Solvers Caucus”, a bipartisan group of centrists. And he says he doesn’t need National Democrats to help him campaign.
“As far as people who aren’t from Minnesota, I’m not in favor of that,” he said.
He also said he would work to make community college education more affordable and vote to codify Roe vs. Wade if elected. Both Finstad and Munson support the Supreme Court’s overturning of this landmark decision.
“Congress has a 20% approval rating; it’s broken,” Ettinger said. “Finstad is not in a position to be an agent of change. I think I have a much more global approach.
Even if he loses the August 9 special election, Ettinger said he is confident he will win the Democratic primary for the general election and continue to fight for the seat – and continue to invest his own money in the race. if necessary.