Republican Jim Hagedorn narrowly defeated Democrat Dan Feehan in southern Minnesota's First Congressional District, declaring victory Wednesday morning after a close race that saw the candidates divided by just 1,311 votes.
Hagedorn's win offset the party's losses in the suburban Twin Cities, where voters jettisoned two GOP incumbents. The open seat had been represented by Democratic Gov.-Elect Tim Walz for 12 years, and national Republicans had made a big play for the district after Hagedorn lost by less than 1 percentage point in 2016. President Donald Trump won the district by 15 percentage points.
Republicans picked up another seat Tuesday in northeastern Minnesota's Eighth Congressional District, where Trump had also won by a similar margin. Republican Pete Stauber was elected to the open seat vacated by departing Democratic U.S. Rep. Rick Nolan.
The shifting political dynamics in Minnesota mirror the GOP's support at the national level, with rural residents increasingly moving toward Republicans. But the party is losing ground with suburban voters, who rebelled against Trump's approach.
"I think it's great in this environment, where not a whole lot of Republicans were successful, that we were able to step up and take back a Democratic seat," Hagedorn said. He and Stauber will both be freshman Republicans in a House now controlled by Democrats; Hagedorn said he hopes to serve on the House Agriculture and Transportation committees.
Hagedorn said that Feehan had not called him since he won the election. The Feehan campaign said in a statement Wednesday that with a difference of just .45 percent between the two candidates, they believed it was important to receive the official results from county canvas officers in the coming days. Hagedorn's current winning margin is just outside the percentage that would trigger an automatic, state-funded recount.
"As this race is approximately 500 votes away from triggering a recount, the campaigns owe it to voters ... to wait until official results are in," the statement said.
Democrat Joe Radinovich, who lost to Stauber, said despite the Republican gains in rural Minnesota, that he found voters are not looking at issues through a partisan lens. They're concerned about the high cost of prescription drugs, college affordability and Medicare, he said, and Trump and other Republicans have made promises that persuaded enough voters.
While the First and Eighth districts converged politically this year, Radinovich noted they have previously had different trajectories. Before Walz, a Republican held the First District for a dozen years; up until the last few election cycles, the Eighth District was a reliable Democratic stronghold.
Both rural districts drew a multimillion-dollar barrage of outside spending and attack ads.
Hagedorn campaigned to secure the American border with Mexico, lower taxes, reduce regulation and to partner with Trump.
"We offered a clear message to keep moving the country to what we said was the right direction … and gave [voters] an honest choice in this district," said Hagedorn.