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With special election for Congress days away, CD1 candidates share priorities if elected

The 1st Congressional District special election was called after Jim Hagedorn died.

Jeff Ettinger and Brad Finstad
Jeff Ettinger, left, and Brad Finstad, right.
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ROCHESTER — Whoever wins the special election on Tuesday to serve out the remainder of the late Rep. Jim Hagedorn’s term will have what amounts to a four-month rental of the job.

That's not much time to build a record or legacy yet the outcome will send a strong signal of the political momentum for the winner of the special election going toward the general election in November.

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That’s when voters will go to the polls again to pick a representative for a two-year term, this time in a 1st Congressional District with slightly different geographical contours but with similar political characteristics. The candidates will most likely, but not necessarily, be the same. Which makes the whole thing more complicated.

The special election ballot includes Republican Brad Finstad, Democrat Jeff Ettinger, Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis candidate Haroun McClellan and Legalize Marijuana Now candidate Richard Reisdorf.

You can read more fully where the candidates stand on the issues down below.

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In a PB questionnaire, Finstad, a small business owner and former USDA Rural Development state director, said “bringing down inflation and improving our economy” is his top priority if elected to Congress. He blamed the “liberal policies pushed by Biden and Pelosi” as the primary driver for record prices in gas, food and other basic necessities.

“We need to shake up Washington, D.C., to build southern Minnesota’s economy again,” Finstad said.

Ettinger, a retired Hormel Foods CEO, said Congress is broken. And as someone whose job was to make food affordable and be a problem-solver, “I can be a change agent who gets things done.” He also said he would support abortion protections since the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.

The cannabis candidates, McClellan and Reisdorf, want to end the criminalization of marijuana.

Finstad enters the final days of the campaign with clear advantages. The district leans Republican with former President Trump winning it by 10 percentage points in 2020.

A new poll by SurveyUSA and ABC 6 News in Rochester showed Finstad leading Ettinger 46% to 38%, with 7% going to the marijuana legalization parties and 8% undecided.

Yet, a victory by Finstad is “not a foregone conclusion,” notes “The Cook Political Report” in a recent analysis. Democrats have in Ettinger, a self-styled pro-business moderate, a “uniquely appealing nominee," it said. The district also has a history of electing moderate Democrats. Democrat Tim Walz held the seat for a dozen years before being elected Minnesota governor.

Ettinger has also raised more money than Finstad, with $400,000 of the $803,000 he's raised coming from his own bank account. Finstad has raised $607,000, the Cook report notes.

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Still, if Ettinger were to win, it would be a significant upset, said Minnesota political analyst Steven Schier.

“(Finstad) is a farmer, a former state legislator. All those things are positives for him in that district,” Schier said.

The special election is a warm-up to a general election contest that will likely feature several of the same major party candidates. One wrinkle is that GOP state Rep. Jeremy Munson is challenging Finstad for the GOP nomination in a primary battle that will appear on the same special election ballot of new CD-1 voters.

Finstad barely defeated Munson in a special election primary in May. Finstad also earned the GOP’s endorsement for the general election.

First Congressional District Special Election:

GOP candidate: Brad Finstad lives in New Ulm with his wife, Jackie. They have seven children.
Current employment: Farmer in Brown County and small-business owner, Frontier Labs
Education: B.A., University of Minnesota
Political experience: State representative, Minnesota House of Representatives (three terms, 2003-2009)
Website: www.finstadforcongress.com

Why are you running for office? 
I am running for Congress because we need to bring change to Washington D.C. Americans are experiencing the sticker shock of the liberal policies pushed by Biden and Pelosi, including record price hikes for gas, food and basic necessities. Bringing down inflation and improving our economy will be my No. 1 priority in Congress. As a family farmer and small business owner, I understand how inflation is crushing small businesses and families budgets all across the 1st Congressional District. My opponent, Jeff Ettinger, a multimillionaire corporate executive, has donated hundreds of thousands to Democrats, and he will support more of the same. We need to shake up Washington, D.C. to build southern Minnesota’s economy again and I’m prepared to deliver that change.

What would be your top three priorities if elected?
The first priority is the immediate crisis right now — bringing down inflation and building up our economy again. Record levels of government spending have resulted in unchecked inflation, which means everyone is paying more for gas, food and basic necessities. I’ve heard from Minnesotans all over the 1st Congressional District the struggles they are facing paying their bills. We need to bring change and enact policies that will improve our economy, bring down prices and normalize our supply chain.

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Congress will be re-authorizing the federal Farm Bill, and as a family farmer, I know first-hand the changes we need to make in Congress to ensure our farmers and the agricultural community are supported to increase food production, bring down prices and reduce regulations that provide little to no value.

Lastly, I will work hard to support federal legislation and policies aimed at growing our economy and supporting small businesses. Our local small businesses are the backbone of our district and the state’s economy, and we need to support, encourage and provide an environment that allows them to grow and add jobs.

DFL candidate: Jeff Ettinger lives in Austin with his wife, LeeAnn. They have four children.
Education: University of California, Los Angeles
Political experience: Co-chair of Gov. Tim Walz’s Economic Expansion Council
Website: EttingerForCongress.com

What would be your top priorities?
First, I know inflation and rising costs are hurting everyone. It’s the No. 1 issue I hear about when I’m listening to people across the district. What people want right now are solutions, not more partisan bickering. I spent my business career focused on making food affordable and finding solutions to big problems. You can find my plan for addressing inflation on my website, EttingerForCongress.com.

Second, we need politicians that represent everyone, not only the people that vote for them. I’m proud to be the moderate candidate in the race, and I look forward to finding ways to bring people together to serve the whole district. Congress is broken — it has had only a 20% favorability rating for years, and I can be a change agent who gets things done.

Third, I believe the Supreme Court made a mistake when they struck down Roe v. Wade. No matter your personal views on abortion, most people don’t think our country should be turning women or their doctors into criminals. If I’m elected, I’ll work to pass the protections of Roe v. Wade into law.

McClellan headshot.jpg
Haroun McClellan.
Contributed

Grassroots-Legalize Cannabis Candidate: Haroun McClellan lives in Rochester with his wife, who works as a physician, and their 3-year-old daughter.
Current employment: Lawyer in the legal department of a construction company
Education: J.D. from Georgia State University College of Law
Political experience: N/A

Why are you running for office?
I am a lawyer, husband and father living in Rochester. As a former litigator, I have seen first-hand the human toll that cannabis prohibition and overcriminalization is taking on our society. From my previous experience as a civil engineer, I know that the way to solve any complex problem requires a pragmatic and objective approach. Like many Minnesotans, I am tired of the two big political parties focusing more on bickering and playing culture politics than achieving results to actually help working Americans with issues that affect our everyday lives. Whether a politician is a Democrat or a Republican, they will always have their loyalties divided between the people they represent and the talking points of their party and donors. I am running with the Grassroots Party so that I can advocate directly for the people in my district without interference from other politicians or the corporate interests and lobbyists that support them.

What would be your top three priorities if elected?
Legalization of cannabis. The top actionable priority toward equitable justice and economic freedom in the U.S. is the full legalization of cannabis for adult use. Government overreach into our personal lives dictating what we can do in the privacy of our own homes without harming others must be curtailed. Southern Minnesota was once the “hemp belt” of America in the 1930s, and our farmers should once again be able to reap the economic benefits of cannabis.

Bring jobs back to America by combating global exploitation of workers. As manufacturing and production jobs continue to leave the U.S., we have lost more than job opportunities — we’ve lost an entire market. This affects our farmers and other producers of raw goods as well, and the use of tariffs by the previous administration proved to be a failed tactic that only hurt our workers. We must address the root cause — the reason corporations outsource American jobs is because it is much cheaper to make or service their products overseas in countries such as China that engage in exploitative labor practices using forced, underpaid or child labor to produce goods.

Stop the redistribution of wealth from poor to rich. The U.S. is the wealthiest country in the world, yet our public schools are glaringly underfunded, infrastructure is crumbling, and we have failed to take meaningful action on homelessness. Where is the wealth, and why isn’t it being used to benefit those working hardest in our everyday lives and those most in need of help? Corporate benefactors and wealthy individuals use lobbyists and campaign funding tactics to pressure politicians to pass policy that takes money from the general public and redistributes it to wealthy executives, corporations, and shareholders in the form of tax breaks.

Richard_Reisdorf.png
Richard B. Reisdorf.
Contributed

Legalize Marijuana Now candidate: Richard B Reisdorf lives in Mankato, and his extended family includes two great-grandchildren.
Current employment: Retired
Education: Master of Arts
Political experience: Active in the past in the Republican, Democrat and Green parties
Website: richardreisdorf.com

Why are you running for office? 
My purpose in running for office is an effort to reduce human suffering and the suffering of the planet.

Would be your three top priorities if elected? 
End the 100-year-old drug war. End the 32-year-old Gulf War. Drastically reduce air, water and soil pollution.

Matthew Stolle has been a Post Bulletin reporter since 2000 and covered many of the beats that make up a newsroom. In his first several years, he covered K-12 education and higher education in Rochester before shifting to politics. He has also been a features writer. Today, Matt jumps from beat to beat, depending on what his editor and the Rochester area are producing in terms of news. Readers can reach Matthew at 507-281-7415 or mstolle@postbulletin.com.
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