Carnahan announces run to fill late husband's congressional seat

A woman smiles and talks.
Former Minnesota Republican Party Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan at a rally for then-President Donald Trump in Bemidji, Minn.
Evan Frost | MPR News 2020

Updated: 10 a.m.

The widow of Congressman Jim Hagedorn says she's running in the special election to fill the remainder of his term representing southern Minnesota's 1st District.

Jennifer Carnahan, who's a former state Republican Party chair, made that announcement early Monday. She said she also plans to run in the general election for a full two-year term.

"My husband and I had a shared connection and passion around our conservative values in fighting for America, and fighting for the people and serving the people,” she told MPR News. “It was my husband's wish for me to carry his legacy forward. And I'm going to keep that promise I made to him to ensure that all of the people in southern Minnesota have a strong voice representing them in Washington."

“What the people of southern Minnesota want is a fighter — they want someone that will disrupt the status quo,” she said, saying she’d welcome any help she can get from former President Donald Trump. “What people hate most about Washington, D.C., is dirty politics and career politicians, so I'm going to be someone that's going to push the good old boys back on their heels.”

Carnahan joins a crowded field running in the closely contested district — at least eight other Republicans, along with six Democrats and one Legal Marijuana Now Party candidate. The filing period for the special election closes Tuesday.

There will be a special election primary on May 24 to cull the number of candidates. The special election to fill out the current term will be on Aug. 9 — the same day as the primary the next two-year term in the newly drawn district. That general election will be on Nov. 8.

Carnahan was elected to a third two-year term as state GOP chair last spring — but then resigned the position in August, after federal prosecutors filed sex trafficking charges against Anton Lazzaro, a GOP donor who had been close to Carnahan.

There were also allegations, which Carnahan denied, that she had created a toxic environment at the party offices.

Minnesota DFL Party Chairman Ken Martin brought that up Monday in a response to news of Carnahan's candidacy, writing that her "leadership ability has been entirely discredited by those who worked most closely with her. It is clear that Carnahan has no business serving in any elected office whatsoever.”

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