Brad Finstad, a Republican former state lawmaker in Minnesota, won a special election for a U.S. House seat, according to The Associated Press. He will complete the final four months remaining in the term of Representative Jim Hagedorn, a Republican, who died from cancer in February.
Mr. Finstad, 46, defeated Jeff Ettinger, a Democrat and the retired chief executive of Hormel Foods, a Minnesota company known for introducing Spam in the 1930s. The district, Minnesota’s First, stretches across the state’s southern border from South Dakota to Wisconsin.
Mr. Finstad did not perform as well in the district as President Donald J. Trump did in 2020, when Mr. Trump won the area by slightly more than 10 percentage points over Joseph R. Biden Jr. Mr. Finstad beat Mr. Ettinger by only roughly four percentage points, a relatively strong showing for Mr. Ettinger, who ran as a moderate and emphasized his support for abortion rights.
The two candidates had tangled over the economy and farming issues in the largely rural district. But in the weeks since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, Mr. Ettinger turned up the volume on his messaging on abortion. He positioned himself as a business-friendly Democrat and appeared to perform well in some rural pockets as well as in the counties that encompass Rochester and Mankato, education and health care hubs that have drawn residents from upper-income, college-educated and racially diverse backgrounds.
Mr. Finstad’s campaign did not think abortion would move the needle at the polls. “It hasn’t really come up with very many voters,” said David Fitzsimmons, a general consultant for the campaign. “Voters seem to be talking about the economy, inflation, gas prices.”
Both he and Mr. Ettinger were on the ballot twice, as both men ran successfully in the regular primary for the seat’s full term. They are now headed to a fall rematch, according to The Associated Press.
Mr. Trump appointed Mr. Finstad to serve as the Agriculture Department’s rural development director for Minnesota in 2017. He also worked as an area director for the Minnesota Farm Bureau and as an agricultural policy aide for former Representative Mark Kennedy, a Minnesota Republican. Mr. Finstad served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 2003 to 2009.
Carly Olson contributed reporting.
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