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Jeff Ettinger wins DFL's endorsement for Congress in Minnesota's 1st District

A former Hormel Foods CEO won the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party's backing on the second ballot of the endorsing convention, with 68% of delegates.

Jeff Ettinger
Jeff Ettinger.
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ALBERT LEA, Minn. — Former Hormel Foods CEO and Jennie-O Turkey Store President Jeff Ettinger won the endorsement of DFL delegates from the newly drawn 1st Congressional District, emerging as the clear favorite in a crowded field in his bid to succeed the late Rep. Jim Hagedorn in Congress.

Ettinger received the support of 68 percent of delegates in the second ballot at the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party's 1st District convention held at Albert Lea High School, defeating a half-dozen other candidates.

The endorsement means that Ettinger has the party’s backing heading into the election season, although he may face Democratic challengers in the primary election in August.

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Ettinger’s endorsement victory comes less than two weeks before a May 24 special election primary to determine the major party candidates for the Aug. 9 special election. The winner of the special election will serve out the remainder of the two-year term of Hagedorn, who died of cancer in February.

Saturday’s endorsing convention concerned only the general election, not the special election. But Ettinger, a first-time political candidate, said the party’s stamp of approval will confer momentum on his candidacy in the special election as well.

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“I think we’ve made the case to delegates,” Ettinger said this morning. “We’ve already been at events all over the district from Luverne to La Crescent and everywhere in between.”

Sarah Brakebill-Hacke, a Rochester Community and Technical College graduate, came in second at the DFL convention with 25 percent of delegates, a source said.

Republicans do not have an endorsed candidate for the general election. GOP delegates were unable to reach agreement on a candidate at their party convention two weeks ago, although state Rep. Jeremy Munson, with 55% of the delegates, emerged with the most support. A candidate must reach the 60% threshold to win the party’s endorsement.

Brad Finstad, a former state representative, came in second with 35 percent of the GOP delegates. The GOP candidate for the general election will be elected in the Aug. 9 primary, the same day that the special election will take place.

Ettinger said he launched his candidacy to defend mainstream American values, including voting rights and the climate.

“This country started where only white males who owned land could vote, and we’ve come a long a long way,” Ettinger said. “And we don’t need to be going backwards on that.”

Ettinger said a “huge moment” for him in deciding to run for Congress was the Jan. 6 riot that suspended the certification of electors for the 2020 presidential election, which was won by Joe Biden. The attack on the Capitol occurred 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 an embarrassment for southern Minnesota that “our own Congressman (Hagedorn)" voted not to certify the election.

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“I’ve heard that several of the candidates who are running as Republicans this time (say) they also would not have certified the election,” Ettinger said. “And, again, to me, that’s not a mainstream principle. The fact that they’re still whining about the results a year and a half later just undermines our democracy.”

The current 1st District stretches across southern Minnesota. Under the once-in-a-decade redistricting process, the new 1st District gained Goodhue and Wabasha counties, which had been part of Minnesota’s 2nd Congressional District and lost Le Sueur County to the 2nd District.

Matthew Stolle has been a Post Bulletin reporter since 2000 and covered many of the beats that make up a newsroom. In his first several years, he covered K-12 education and higher education in Rochester before shifting to politics. He has also been a features writer. Today, Matt jumps from beat to beat, depending on what his editor and the Rochester area are producing in terms of news. Readers can reach Matthew at 507-281-7415 or mstolle@postbulletin.com.
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