Voters in southern Minnesota’s First Congressional District sent military veteran Rep. Tim Walz to Washington, D.C., in the last six House elections. By electing Dan Feehan, they can continue an honorable tradition of sending to Congress a military veteran and tireless advocate for those who have served.
Feehan, a Democrat who had two tours in Iraq and was cited for valor, is one of the most impressive first-time candidates the Editorial Board has interviewed. He is likable, well-spoken and deeply knowledgeable on many issues, but especially health care and support for vets — a big concern in a district that’s home to so many who have served.
Feehan, 36, grew up in Red Wing and now resides in North Mankato. He worked as a teacher in Chicago and Gary, Ind., and served as a principal deputy assistant secretary of defense in the Obama administration, leading a team of 300 and overseeing an annual budget of $600 million. That experience would enable him to wield influence quickly on issues important to a regional economy powered by agriculture and the Mayo Clinic.
Feehan’s opponent is Republican Jim Hagedorn, whose father Thomas served the Second District in Congress. Jim Hagedorn, 56, worked for the U.S. Treasury but is perhaps best known for controversial old blog posts maligning American Indians and women. He is making his fourth run for the seat. In 2016 he lost narrowly to Walz, who is running for governor.
A look at key issues illustrates why Feehan wins our endorsement:
• Veterans’ care. Hagedorn’s support for privatizing some Veterans Administration medical services doesn’t reflect that existing reforms have been costly to administer and, in Minnesota, ineffective in reducing wait times for care. The better-informed Feehan understands this could siphon resources from VA clinics.
• Trade. Feehan is able to quickly analyze how trade policy impacts the district and would be an independent voice for farmers concerned about Trump administration tariffs. Hagedorn spent his primary campaign accusing his opponent of not supporting President Donald Trump vigorously enough. It’s hard to see him pushing back against the White House or advocating for congressional oversight.
• Immigration. Congress needs dealmakers who can find common ground to help employers that rely on immigrant workers and deal humanely with those who are here illegally. Hagedorn’s hard line rhetoric on this issue leaves him little room to compromise. Feehan is more likely to work for solutions — and be invited to do so.
• National defense. Feehan’s anguish over the length of the U.S. war in Afghanistan was clear during his endorsement interview. The nation is best served when politicians understand war’s realities firsthand before they send others to fight.
• Health care. Hagedorn has cast himself as a protector of the Mayo Clinic. The reality: His immigration fearmongering, support for travel bans and hard line opposition to same-sex marriage is clearly at odds with Mayo’s vision for its future — enhancing Rochester’s global draw through its Destination Medical Center project. In addition to attracting more patients. Mayo must recruit highly specialized physicians and researchers — and their families. Hagedorn’s rhetorical baggage, not to mention new bombast, would send the wrong message to doctors and scientists considering a move.
On these issues and others, including climate change and sensible gun law reforms, southern Minnesota has an opportunity to send a forward-thinking representative with enormous potential to Congress — one who is not hindered by impolitic past statements or at risk of making new ones. Dan Feehan is the right choice for the First District.