15-hour convention ends with no GOP endorsement in First District

State Rep. Jeremy Munson led on all seven ballots but never secured the necessary 60% to win the endorsement.

Delegates in Minnesota's First Congressional District attend Saturday's convention in Mankato. (Rebecca Brannon/Twitter)

Republican Tom Weiler won the GOP endorsement in Minnesota’s Third Congressional District over Mark Blaxill Saturday.

Weiler called on Republicans to “band together” to take back a seat that was in the GOP’s hands for nearly 60 years until Rep. Dean Phillips unseated Erik Paulsen in 2018.

“Now is the time to band together as Republicans and take back a congressional seat that should be represented by a true conservative and not a liberal progressive like Congressman Phillips. This district is full of everyday Minnesotans who care about being able to afford to put food on the table, gas in their cars, their children’s education, and having a safe neighborhood to raise their children,” Weiler said.

Things weren’t so simple at the GOP convention in Mankato for Minnesota’s First Congressional District, which concluded after nearly 15 hours with no endorsement.

The seat has been vacant since mid-February after the passing of Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who died following a three-year battle with kidney cancer. A special election is scheduled for early August, but the endorsement was technically just for the general election three months later.

Hagedorn’s widow, Jennifer Carnahan, is now running to replace her late husband in Congress. Carnahan resigned as the chair of the Minnesota GOP last August after a party donor was arrested on federal sex trafficking charges. Several ex-staffers then came forward to accuse Carnahan of creating a toxic workplace at the state party.

State Rep. Jeremy Munson, a Carnahan foe, led on all seven ballots but never secured the necessary 60% to win the endorsement, according to Minnesota journalist Rebecca Brannon.

By the seventh ballot, just Munson and Brad Finstad remained. Finstad is a former state legislator and worked in the USDA under President Donald Trump. He has been endorsed by Reps. Pete Stauber and Michelle Fischbach, two-thirds of the Minnesota GOP’s congressional delegation.

Munson, meanwhile, has been endorsed by many in the GOP’s libertarian wing, including Reps. Thomas Massie and Jim Jordan and Sen. Rand Paul, whose endorsement came in just before Saturday’s convention.

“I need his help in Washington to fire Fauci, drain the swamp, stop out of control spending, and fight DC socialists,” Paul said.

Despite the high-profile endorsements, attorney and GOP activist Matt Benda has raised the most money among the GOP candidates, according to MinnPost.

Carnahan dropped out of the endorsing process after the fourth ballot and urged delegates to forgo an endorsement, according to Brannon, who at one point was told by a convention volunteer that only “mainstream established media” were allowed to cover the event.

Carnahan said an endorsement could create a “chaotic” situation wherein one candidate wins the special primary election and another is endorsed in the general.

“I’m happy to see our party avoid creating a self-inflicted disaster by endorsing a general election candidate before the primary. As an advocate of the grassroots, the timing of this endorsement never made sense and was clearly manipulated to confuse the hundreds of activists that lead with their time, treasure and talent,” Carnahan reiterated in a statement released Sunday.

Hagedorn’s death created a highly unusual election schedule, further complicated by the decennial redistricting process.

A special election for the vacant seat will take place on the same day as the statewide primary, which is Aug. 9. A special primary for the seat will be held on May 24. Both the special primary and election will be held under the old congressional district boundaries, whereas the statewide primary on Aug. 9 will be held under the new boundaries.

Early voting in the special primary began April 8.

Saturday’s convention ended just before 1 a.m. when delegates voted to not proceed with an endorsement.

After Carnahan dropped off the ballot, about 30-50 delegates were consistently handing in blank ballots or checking “undecided.”

Other candidates seeking the GOP endorsement include Ken Navitsky, Kevin Kocina, and Nels Pierson.

Another endorsing convention could still be called before the general election primary.