ALBERT LEA, Minn. – Former Hormel Foods CEO Jeff Ettinger has won the approval of DFL delegates from the newly drawn 1st Congressional District, becoming the undisputed frontrunner in a crowded field in his bid to succeed the late Representative Jim Hagedorn in Congress.
Ettinger received support from 68% of delegates on the second ballot at the DFL 1st District convention held at Albert Lea High School, beating half a dozen other candidates.
The endorsement means Ettinger has party support heading into election season, although he could face Democratic opponents in the August primary election.
Ettinger’s endorsement victory comes less than two weeks before a May 24 special election primary to determine the party’s leading candidates for the August 9 special election. The winner of the special election will serve the remainder of the two-year term of Hagedorn, who died of cancer in February.
Saturday’s endorsement convention was only for the general election, not the special election. But Ettinger, a first-time political candidate, said the party’s stamp of approval would also lend momentum to his bid in the special election.
“I think we made the case to the delegates,” Ettinger said this morning. “We have already participated in events all over the district, from Luverne to La Crescent and everywhere in between.
Rochester Community and Technical College graduate Sarah Brakebill-Hacke came second at the DFL convention with 25% of the delegates, a source said.
Republicans do not have an approved candidate for the general election. GOP delegates were unable to reach an agreement on a candidate at their party’s convention two weeks ago, though State Rep. Jeremy Munson, with 55% of delegates , emerged with the most support. A candidate must meet the 60% threshold to win party approval.
Brad Finstad, a former state representative, came in second with 35% of GOP delegates. The GOP nominee for the general election will be elected in the Aug. 9 primary, the same day the special election takes place.
Ettinger said he launched his candidacy to defend mainstream American values, including suffrage and climate.
“This country started out where only white men who owned land could vote, and we’ve come a long way,” Ettinger said. “And we don’t need to go back on that.”
Ettinger said a “huge moment” for him in his decision to run for Congress was the Jan. 6 riot that suspended voter certification for the 2020 presidential election, which was won by Joe Biden. . The attack on the Capitol came after then-President Trump held a “Stop The Steal” rally at which he urged supporters to march to the building and protest the certification.
Ettinger said it was embarrassing for southern Minnesota that “our own congressman,” Hagedorn, voted not to certify the election.
“I’ve heard that several of the candidates running as Republicans this time (say) they wouldn’t have certified the election either,” Ettinger said. “And, again, for me, that’s not a common principle. The fact that they are still lamenting the results a year and a half later only undermines our democracy.
The current 1st District spans southern Minnesota. As part of the once-a-decade redistricting process, the new 1st District gained Goodhue and Wabasha counties, which were part of Minnesota’s 2nd congressional district, and lost Le Sueur County to the 2nd District.