Not all of the major Republican primary races were decided Tuesday night. Next week, GOP voters in a southern Minnesota Congressional district will decide whom to put forward to run for the seat left vacant by the death of Rep. Jim Hagedorn.
According to a report by The Daily Beast, Minnesota Republicans are concerned that Hagedorn's widow, Jennifer Carnahan, could become their candidate.
Jim Hagedorn was diagnosed with kidney cancer in February 2019, shortly after beginning his first term representing the state's first Congressional district, and died in February 2022.
Two weeks after her husband's death, Jennifer Carnahan announced her candidacy to take over his seat, writing on Facebook, “It was Jim’s wish that I carry his legacy forward. And I promised him I would not let him or southern Minnesota down.”
"If this were said by someone else - maybe anybody else - it might have been received as an inspirational rallying cry," according to The Daily Beast. "But many of those who actually know Carnahan, beneath the public image, don’t want to see her get anywhere near the position of power her husband left behind."
Carnahan is a polarizing figure in Minnesota GOP politics. Her campaign materials are rife with images of former President Donald Trump, although she does not have his endorsement. Her claim that Jim Hagedorn wanted her to succeed him is far from widely accepted.
Gary Steuart, a local businessman and GOP activist, was a key backer of Hagedorn’s campaigns as well as a personal friend. He says of Hagedorn, “I never heard of him supporting anybody for this seat. When he first got sick [in 2019], he told me within a few weeks of his diagnosis—he said, ‘maybe this would give an opening to a young guy in the district.’”
If Carnahan wins the May 24 primary, some worry her checkered record in the state's Republican Party could put the seat at risk for the GOP.
"Last summer, after Carnahan’s friend and GOP activist Anton Lazzaro was charged with child sex trafficking, four former executive directors of the party posted a remarkable open letter. They accused Carnahan, among other things, of covering up sexual harassment in the party ranks and ruling 'by grudges, retaliation and intimidation.' Later, a former staffer accused Carnahan of outing her as queer," according to The Daily Beast report.
“If she is the candidate there, every story is going to be, ‘Jennifer Carnahan—by the way, Tony Lazzaro,’” said one Minnesota GOP insider, who requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly. “That’s not good for us. I truly think she’s the one Republican that could lose the seat.”