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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

With all precincts reporting, Republican Jim Hagedorn had a 1,311 vote lead over DFLer Dan Feehan.

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

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.

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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.