Any candidate seeking political office owes it to his or her potential constituents to get to know them — their hopes and dreams, their concerns and challenges. Candidates should also become acquainted with the economic, cultural, geographic and demographic differences within the communities they seek to serve.
Perhaps most importantly, the candidates’ positions on key issues facing our country should accurately reflect those held by the constituents they hope to represent.
However, doing that homework and holding views in tandem with the district apparently mean little to the Star Tribune Editorial Board, and partially explains its decision to bypass Jim Hagedorn for endorsement in Minnesota’s First Congressional District. The board appeared to be smitten with the biography and “style over substance” approach of Hagedorn’s DFL opponent (“Dan Feehan is the leader the First District needs,” Oct. 26).
In dismissing the strong campaigning Jim performed, which brought him 49.6 percent of the vote and a near upset of incumbent Tim Walz in 2016, the Editorial Board ignored the fact that it takes a significant amount of time and personal effort to travel, listen and learn the uniqueness of each of the 21 counties in a vast district like ours. Jim’s campaigns have provided him a level of in-depth knowledge not possessed by his opponent, who never lived in the current First District until he moved from Washington, D.C., to run for office.
Over the past two years, Jim has met with hundreds of community “thought leaders” such as social workers, hospital and nursing home administrators, county highway engineers, school superintendents, college presidents, sheriffs, police chiefs, veterans service officers, county commissioners, city council, township and school board members, and countless others across the First District.
Jim didn’t engage in those meetings for political purposes. There were no staged photo ops, cameras or media invited. Instead, he sat down to ask questions, listen, learn and better prepare himself to represent the issues raised by those with whom he spoke.
Nor did Jim limit his discussions to leaders. He has attended every county fair, parade and community festival, visited main street businesses, walked the fields with farmers, spoken with families door-to-door and met with college students. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Jim has been doing the job of a congressman without the title.
Even more important is for candidates to openly and honestly state where they stand on the issues. At a time when political doublespeak is the norm and candidates are coached to stick to a script of poll-tested terminology, Jim Hagedorn’s honest responses to questions leave no doubt what he believes, and where he would make changes. He won’t pander or dodge questions, and his knowledge of federal issues is more in-depth and comprehensive than any other nonincumbent candidate running in Minnesota.
The Editorial Board cites five issues on which it claims Hagedorn’s position is inferior to Feehan’s, despite the fact that on nearly every issue, Hagedorn’s position mirrors that of district residents. Hagedorn’s advocacy of letting veterans choose their own doctors and clinics instead of being locked into the unwieldy bureaucracy of the Veterans Administration recognizes that we can do better by expanding the health care options of veterans who live in the deeply rural First District.
Similarly, Hagedorn’s immigration and refugee resettlement position reflects the concerns of many Minnesotans who support securing our borders and taking a refugee resettlement timeout.
Regarding national defense, had the Editorial Board done its homework, it would have learned it was Hagedorn in 2013, not Feehan in 2018, who expressed concerns about nation-building and the long U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.
And instead of objectively analyzing the candidates’ respective positions on health care, the board used ad hominem attacks on Hagedorn’s opposition to open borders and gay marriage to label his entire health care platform unacceptable, since those positions seemingly rank higher on the Mayo Clinic’s list of concerns. In doing so, the board completely ignored Democrat Feehan’s support of a Medicare-style buy-in, which would result in reimbursement rates that endanger the Mayo model of health care, threaten the survival of rural hospitals and medical clinics, and put at risk as many as 40,000 health care-related jobs in southern Minnesota.
The Editorial Board is entitled to its own left-leaning opinion, but not its own facts. On issue after issue, the fact is that Jim Hagedorn’s positions better reflect the views and values of southern Minnesotans, which is exactly why he has earned their support.
Carol Stevenson is chair of Minnesota’s First District Republican Party.