Fillmore County Republican Chairman Doug Baker is speaking out against endorsing 1st District Republican primary winner Jim Hagedorn.
In an eight-paragraph letter-to-the-editor emailed to the Post-Bulletin, Baker said Hagedorn does not deserve the party's endorsement after he went back on his pledge to abide by the endorsement. Initially, Hagedorn had agreed to abide by the party's endorsement process and dropped out of the race after Republicans endorsed Byron Army veteran Aaron Miller in April. But six weeks later, the Blue Earth Republican re-entered the race, saying Miller wasn't running an aggressive enough campaign. He pulled off an upset victory last week, defeating Miller for the chance to take on 1st District DFL Rep. Tim Walz in November.
"Let me get this straight. We want to reward the guy who lied right to our faces, wasted our time and money and widened the rift in the district by wasting more time and money to give him the very thing he thought lowly enough to ignore four months ago," Baker wrote.
Baker's letter raises the question of whether strong Miller supporters will be willing to get behind Hagedorn's campaign after the hard-fought primary battle. Rep. Greg Davids, R-Preston, said it's important to remember this is the first time in recent memory that an endorsed congressional candidate has lost the primary. For some avid Miller supporters, that's a tough loss to absorb. But Davids, who did support Miller, said he's ready to get behind Hagedorn.
"We can live in the past all day if we want to, or we can go out and work into the future. I prefer to go out and work in the future with the cards we're dealt," Davids said. "But for some activists, it's going to be tough and some may never come around, and that would be unfortunate."
Hagedorn said his campaign is making a point of traveling the district to meet with Republicans. That included recent stops at Republican party picnics in Freeborn, Olmsted and Mower counties. He said he is pledging he will continue to work as hard as possible to defeat Walz in November.
"We are really staying on Walz. We think we're in a great spot to win back the seat," he said.
Hagedorn won the primary race with 54 percent of the vote compared to Miller's 46 percent. While Hagedorn had broad support across the district, Miller did have strong pockets of support — particularly in Dodge, Fillmore and Olmsted counties.
The 1st District Republican race wasn't the only competitive primary for Republicans this year. Republican-endorsed candidate Jeff Johnson beat out three other Republicans for the nod. The day after that victory, Johnson's three rivals — Scott Honour, Marty Seifert and Kurt Zellers — joined him at a unity press conference to show their support for Johnson. In the 1st District, there has been no such event with Hagedorn and Miller. And as of Thursday, Miller had yet to call Hagedorn to concede.
In his letter, Baker attacks Hagedorn for going after Miller in the media in the lead up to the primary vote and said his opposition to the Blue Earth Republican's endorsement is about honoring the party's principles.
Baker writes, "Jim Hagedorn deserves no endorsement until he pays back every single delegate and alternate the money and time that were wasted."
When asked about his decision to email the letter, Baker said, "My email speaks for itself."
Republicans interviewed for this story said there is heartburn among some party activists over Hagedorn's reversed position on the endorsement. Even so, they said the majority of Republicans are ready to support Hagedorn.
Mark Bofferding is one of those activists. He was a strong supporter of Miller's campaign after the Byron Republican won the party's endorsement. Now that Miller is out, Bofferding said he's willing to do what he can to help Hagedorn beat Walz. While he admits Hagedorn's decision to go after the endorsed candidate upset some of the party delegates, "politics is politics, and you just can't take it personally."
He added, "To be honest, I was impressed by the way (Hagedorn) goes after Tim Walz. So I'm certainly 100 percent behind him, and I will do everything I can to get him elected."
Olmsted County Republican Chairman Bruce Kaskubar said some party members had expressed concern about Hagedorn coming to the party picnic held earlier this week. But when Hagedorn did show up, there was no overt negativity towards him. If anything, he said Hagedorn's reception was "less enthusiastic" than that given to other candidates. He chalks that up to Republican still absorbing what happened in last week's primary election.
As for Baker's decision to write a letter criticizing Hagedorn, Kaskubar said Baker "probably should have counted to 10" before firing it off.
Kaskubar added, "The ballot is only going to include Jim Hagedorn and Tim Walz. So it's a little bit of braying at the moon I think on Doug's part, because the reality is it's going to be one or the other who is going to win this thing, and are you going to sit there and give Tim Walz a pass in Fillmore County? That just doesn't seem realistic to me."
A Minnesota DFL spokeswoman declined to provide comment for this story.
Republican Party Chairman Keith Downey has already voiced strong party support for Hagedorn in the wake of his victory. First District Republican Chairwoman Carol Stevenson said they are still determining whether an endorsing convention needs to be held for Hagedorn or if that's an unnecessary formality, at this point, given he's the only name on the ballot. Stevenson said she knew it would be hard for some of Miller's supporters after the primary, but she's already been contacted by several Miller volunteers asking how they can help Hagedorn's campaign.
As far as Baker's decision to speak out against Hagedorn, Stevenson said she's not a "top-down person" and she has no interest in getting involved in Fillmore County Republican politics unless she's asked to do it.
She added, "I think Fillmore County should take care of Fillmore County business."