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Once again, First District is Minnesota’s closest U.S. House race. But this time, Hagedorn appears to have clinched it

Jim Hagedorn
Courtesy photo by Jackson Forderer/Mankato Free Press
Jim Hagedorn, center, talking with friends and supporters at the Mankato Event Center as election results trickled in on Tuesday evening.

For the second election cycle in a row, the U.S. House race in the 1st Congressional District has been a nail-biter. But with all precincts now reporting, Republican Jim Hagedorn has a narrow lead over Democrat Dan Feehan, situating him for a victory in this southern Minnesota district that was heavily targeted by both national parties.

Hagedorn is ahead of Feehan by 1,311 votes, a 0.45 percentage point margin. Wednesday morning, Hagedorn declared victory in a tweet; the Associated Press called the race for Hagedorn early Wednesday afternoon. The Feehan campaign has not yet publicly conceded.

Under Minnesota election law, there are no automatic recounts; however, a margin of 0.25 percent or less would trigger a recount funded by the public. A candidate may pay for a recount in a race with a greater difference of votes.

Minnesota Secretary of State office spokesman Ben Petok said that election officials will spend the next several weeks certifying the midterm results and checking for things like data entry errors. He said that such errors would be unlikely to push the race meaningfully in one direction or the other.

Democrats have already locked up a majority in the U.S. House — they have gained at least 26 seats — so a Republican win in CD1 only serves to eat into their numbers. But it is something of a symbolic victory: this district, which spans the southern end of the state from Wisconsin to South Dakota, went for Donald Trump by 16 points, and it’s been touted as a top GOP pickup opportunity since incumbent DFL Rep. Tim Walz announced his bid for governor.

Along with Pete Stauber’s victory in northeast Minnesota’s 8th District, Republicans flipped two of the three Greater Minnesota U.S. House districts currently held by Democrats. Expect Republicans to point to that development as a sign of their consolidation of rural, working-class white voters who have leaned Democratic but surged to the GOP side thanks to Trump.

For Hagedorn, a former U.S. Treasury official who lives in the rural Faribault County community of Blue Earth, a win means he has earned a seat in Congress after his fourth try in five election cycles. In 2016, Hagedorn narrowly lost to Walz by a margin of 0.76 percentage points, or 3,500 votes — the closest congressional race in Minnesota that year.

Hagedorn campaign manager David FitzSimmons said there’s no reason not to conclude the 2018 race has been decided. FitzSimmons said that in 2016, Hagedorn did not pursue a recount after deciding the voters had spoken, and he expressed hope Feehan would do the same.

Feehan, a former official in Barack Obama’s Department of Defense and an Iraq War veteran, was regarded as a strong recruit who gave Democrats a good shot at keeping this traditionally Republican-leaning seat in Democratic hands. He outraised Hagedorn by over $2 million in a race that attracted close to $14 million in outside spending — more than any other congressional race in Minnesota.

Comments (13)

  1. Submitted by ian wade on 11/07/2018 - 12:54 pm.

    Hagedorn defines the term “empty suit.”

    • Submitted by Curtis Senker on 11/07/2018 - 02:31 pm.

      A suit soon to sport a US Congressman’s lapel pin. I’m betting CD1 has seen it’s last Democrat congressman.

      • Submitted by Tory Koburn on 11/07/2018 - 04:18 pm.

        I agree. If you look at the maps of Minnesota congressional districts over the last few decades, CD 1’s northern border gradually moves further and further south after each census, as other districts take up more and more of the southern TC exurbs. Assuming this happens again after 2020, population growth in Rochester likely won’t make up for this in the near future.

        I think CD 8 will continue to go back and forth between parties though; it’s just that kind of district.

      • Submitted by Dan Sperl on 11/07/2018 - 06:10 pm.

        Don’t count on it. Think future races will usually be close too, though. Rochester and Mankato are the fastest growing cities in the district and they are also the bluest.

      • Submitted by Max Hailperin on 11/08/2018 - 08:03 am.

        Betting one what will or won’t be the party of future CD1 representatives may not be particularly meaningful in that the current CD1 will only exist for one more election (2020). The reapportionment after the next census may well decrease Minnesota from 8 representatives to 7, in which case the new districts will surely look very different from the current ones. (Even if the number stays 8, some change will be necessary. For example, CD1 might grow to encompass some more exurban area now in CD2.)

      • Submitted by Nick Foreman on 11/08/2018 - 08:31 am.

        He will be gone in two years along with trump.

  2. Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/07/2018 - 02:32 pm.

    Feehan came closer than most predictions, and probably within the margin of error of voting procedures.
    Since Feehan is a newcomer to the current 1st District, if I were Hagedorn I’d be very nervous. He can only walk so many bean fields, and I doubt that Trump is going to get any more popular. As more information about his various dealings (business and otherwise) become available, if his base will start to have second thoughts. They won’t, for the most part, vote against him, but turnout will drop. And that was the story of this election.

    • Submitted by Max Hailperin on 11/08/2018 - 08:17 am.

      I have no objection to your political points, but with regard to the margin of error of voting procedures, you are wrong. The state of Minnesota has extensive data on how accurate our vote counts are because we have done three statewide recounts in recent history, post-election reviews in randomly selected precincts every two years, and numerous smaller recounts. All these sources of evidence show that about 0.1% of the ballots are miscounted by the optical scanners, almost exclusively because they are marked in non-standard ways, such as circling the candidate’s name rather than filling in the oval. In practice, many of these are counted as non-votes rather than as votes for the intended candidate, so correcting the error only makes a difference of one. But even if all of them were counted as votes for the wrong candidate, so that correcting the error makes a difference of two, and even if of them were cast for the same candidate (so that no cancelling out occurred), they would make a difference of at most 0.2%. Thus, a difference of 0.45% is definitely outside the margin of error for our vote counting procedures. This was the analysis that the legislature considered in 2013 when it lowered the threshold for a publicly funded recount from 0.5% to 0.25%.

      • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/08/2018 - 02:18 pm.

        I won’t argue your numbers for the voting operations themselves, although they concentrate mostly on vote counting, not the whole voting process, including things like people marking the wrong box.
        I suspect if you actually reran the election, there would be more than a 0.25% difference in the outcomes.

        • Submitted by Max Hailperin on 11/09/2018 - 05:41 am.

          You say what you suspect would happen if we re-ran the election. First, re-running the election wouldn’t reveal the reliability with which people mark their choices and have them counted because some people would make different choices. Second, your personal suspicion is a rather weak form of evidence to offer in support of your original claim as to what is probably true (“probably within the margin of error of voting procedures”). Essentially you are asking the readers to accept that your suspicions are more likely to be correct than not. You may well feel that way about your own suspicions, but why would a reader? After all, there are folks out there with all sorts of bizarre suspicions, perhaps in the elections area as much as any other.

  3. Submitted by Susan Maricle on 11/07/2018 - 05:22 pm.

    I’m hoping that we only have Jim “I Know Where the Bodies Are Buried” Hagedorn for one term. Dan Feehan reminded me of Angie Craig in her first run: a candidate who checked all the right boxes, but just didn’t connect with the voters. Johnny Akzam might have been a better choice, as he had innovative ideas, like live-blogging outside of the Rochester library when he was excluded from the candidate debate there.

    • Submitted by ian wade on 11/08/2018 - 02:00 pm.

      Feehan was a combat vet and school teacher. Hagedorn is the epitome of the very swamp that Trump supporters claim to want to drain from Washington.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 11/08/2018 - 02:21 pm.

      I think that Feehan’s biggest problem was that he was new to the community. If he continues to be involved in community affairs (I’ve run into him at a few events), he’ll run more strongly in 2020. I doubt that Trump will be more of a help then than he is now — probably the opposite as more comes out about his various games.

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