Former Trump USDA official Brad Finstad beat out his Democratic opponent, ex-Hormel CEO Jeff Ettinger, by only 4,600 votes in a Minnesota special election Tuesday that was closer than predicted.
Finstad was sworn in Friday morning with his wife and seven children by his side.
“People in my district sent a farmer to Congress,” he said during a speech on the House floor. “On the farm when we wake up in the morning we know something will be broke. So we wake up trying to figure out how am I going to fix things. To me, serving in Congress is all about that. Rolling up my sleeves, taking that farmer mentality, figuring out what’s broke and how we’re going to fix it.”
The seat for Minnesota’s First Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives had been vacant since the death of Rep. Jim Hagedorn in February, and the special election was called to fill the remainder of Hagedorn’s term.
Cook Political Report had the First Congressional District as “solid Republican” until July, when it became “likely Republican.” Elections analyst Dave Wasserman argued that this forecast changed because Ettinger proved to be a “uniquely strong Democratic candidate.” Wasserman also cited a “post-Dobbs energy jolt of Democratic enthusiasm.”
Following the special election results Tuesday night, the analyst predicted a “high single-digit win” for Finstad, in keeping with the slightly altered forecast from July.
But Finstad ended up beating Ettinger on Tuesday by just 4%. According to data compiled by Wasserman, Finstad underperformed former president Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential election results in multiple counties:
In a decent outcome for Dems, Finstad (R) now on track to underperform Trump's 2020 numbers in tonight's #MN01 special:
Dodge: Trump +30, Finstad +27
Freeborn: Trump +16, Finstad +17
LeSeuer: Trump +30, Finstad +24
Nicollet: Trump -3, Finstad -6
Steele: Trump +22, Finstad +16
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) August 10, 2022
In addition, Ettinger overperformed President Joe Biden’s presidential election results in a couple of counties, including Ettinger’s own home county of Mower as well as Winona and Olmsted counties.
Biden lost Mower County to Trump by 6 points in 2020, but Ettinger’s 20-point swing gave him an easy victory there. Ettinger also garnered an additional 8.6% of the vote in Winona County and another 6% more in Olmsted County than Biden.
Because this was a special election, Finstad will hold Hagedorn’s old seat for roughly three months before voters go back to the polls for the regular November midterm elections, where Finstad will have to square off against Ettinger a second time.
Despite the close call for Finstad, Cook Political is keeping the forecast for the First Congressional District as “likely Republican” for now.