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Republicans hold Minnesota House seat as Finstad wins special election

GOP congressional candidate Brad Finstad hugs his mother, Sharon Finstad, on Aug. 9 in Sleepy Eye, Minn. (Aaron Lavinsky/Star Tribune/AP)

Republican Brad Finstad, a former state lawmaker, won the special election for Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District, defeating Democrat Jeff Ettinger in a closely watched race.

The Associated Press called the race Wednesday morning, with Finstad holding a narrow lead of 51.1 percent to 46.9 percent with 98 percent of precincts reporting.

“I’m humbled to receive the support of my fellow southern Minnesotans to represent them in Congress,” Finstad tweeted Wednesday. “Our country faces extraordinary challenges, but I am confident that we can come together to overcome them and ensure the 21st century is yet another great American century.”

The seat had been held by Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-Minn.), who died in February after a battle with kidney cancer.

A member of a family that has farmed for generations, Finstad is the former director of rural development in Minnesota for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The 46-year-old Minnesota native was appointed to the position by President Donald Trump.

The seat was labeled “likely Republican” by media outlets, given its demographics and history. But analysts were paying close attention to the race to determine whether a Democratic upset — spurred by the recent Supreme Court decision that overturned Roe v. Wade — would suggest that the political environment is improving for Democrats, who are underdogs in their bid to hold their majority in the House.

On his website, Finstad describes himself as a “strong supporter of the Second Amendment, defending the unborn, and keeping government out of the way so entrepreneurs, farmers, and small businesses can thrive.” He calls himself “a conservative fighter running for Congress to fire Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House and put the brakes on the out-of-control Biden/Pelosi agenda that is fueling inflation and hurting Southern Minnesota families.”

A former chief executive of Hormel Foods, Ettinger now oversees the food processing company’s foundation. The 63-year-old lawyer is a California native who joined the Minnesota company as a corporate attorney.

Ettinger boasted that he is “not a politician.” He noted that he had never run for office before and said he joined the race “to address the problems that politicians seem unable or unwilling to fix.”

“The voters of Southern Minnesota have spoken, and I want to congratulate Brad Finstad on winning the Special Election last night,” he tweeted Wednesday. “Though I had hoped to celebrate different news with you all, there is plenty for which to be hopeful.”

Understanding the 2022 Midterm Elections

November’s midterm elections are likely to shift the political landscape and impact what President Biden can accomplish during the remainder of his first term. Here’s what to know.

When are the midterm elections? The general election is Nov. 8, but the primary season is nearing completion, with voters selecting candidates in the New York and Florida primaries Tuesday. Here’s a complete calendar of all the primaries in 2022.

Why are the midterms important? The midterm elections determine control of Congress: The party that has the House or Senate majority gets to organize the chamber and decide what legislation Congress considers. Thirty six governors and thousands of state legislators are also on the ballot. Here’s a complete guide to the midterms.

Which seats are up for election? Every seat in the House and a third of the seats in the 100-member Senate are up for election. Dozens of House members have already announced they will be retiring from Congress instead of seeking reelection.

What is redistricting? Redistricting is the process of drawing congressional and state legislative maps to ensure everyone’s vote counts equally. As of April 25, 46 of the 50 states had settled on the boundaries for 395 of 435 U.S. House districts.

Which primaries are the most competitive? Here are the most interesting Democratic primaries and Republican primaries to watch as Republicans and Democrats try to nominate their most electable candidates.