Republican Rep. Tom Emmer sailed to a fourth term in the conservative Sixth Congressional District on Tuesday, besting DFL political newcomer and former Mrs. Minnesota Tawnja Zahradka.

Emmer, a former state legislator from Delano and 2010 candidate for governor, has represented the district since 2014, when former GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann retired.

He has handily defeated DFL challengers in the last three elections.

The central Minnesota congressional district, which covers the St. Cloud area and northwestern exurban cities, hasn't elected a Democrat in two decades.

Zahradka is a former broadcaster who got into politics after experiencing workplace discrimination in 2017. She attended an Emmer town hall in St. Cloud last year and said he was dismissive of dissenting viewpoints.

On the campaign trail, she'd been critical of his votes to repeal the Affordable Care Act and against renewing the Violence Against Women Act.

Emmer emphasized his work in Congress on mental health support, transportation upgrades and rural infrastructure improvements.

As chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee (NRCC), Emmer has also led the House GOP's effort to win back a House majority. Success on election night bolsters his influence on Capitol Hill.

Emmer has been criticized by Democrats over the NRCC's messaging, including attacks against a New Jersey Democratic congressman that resulted in death threats from supporters of QAnon, which has promoted many conspiracy theories.

Those ads have also led to confrontations with Emmer's Minnesota DFL colleagues in Congress.

Briana Bierschbach