Democratic spin masters and sympathetic analysts are claiming that the abortion issue made Tuesday’s MN-1 special election result closer than it should have been, but such statements suggest they have not studied the region’s past congressional voting trends.
GOP former state Representative Brad Finstad (R) won the MN-1 special election with a 51-47% majority over former Hormel corporation CEO Jeffrey Ettinger (D), yielding a Republican victory margin of 4,744 votes that these analysts say should have been higher.
In actuality, Mr. Finstad’s win was larger than the victory percentage attained in the last three congressional elections, two Republican wins and one Democratic – the latter when now-Gov. Tim Walz (D) won his final election in representing the 1st District. In fact, a Democrat has represented this district for 24 of the past 38 years, so the party candidates have historically done well in this region.
The MN-1 district covers all or parts of 21 counties in southern Minnesota, including all of the counties along with state’s border shared with Iowa. It also includes the Democratic cities of Rochester, Mankato, and Winona, the three largest population centers in the 1st CD that together house well over one-third of the district’s residents.
Thus, the argument that reaction to the abortion issue increased Democratic turnout fails for several reasons. While the 117,249 individuals who cast ballots in the special election is among the higher turnout figures we’ve seen for one of the many special congressional elections during this term of office, it also must be remembered that Tuesday’s special election was held concurrently with the state’s regular primary election. Therefore, it becomes obvious that the special’s participation rate would be greater since primary turnout is naturally going to be higher than for a stand-alone election.
For the regular primary election, 2,068 more people voted in the regular congressional than the special election. Of the 119,317 people casting their ballots in the regular primary election from this district, 53.2% voted in the Republican primary, a higher total than had supported Mr. Finstad in the special general or any of the previous three winning general election contenders.
In 2016, Rep. Walz won a 50.3 – 49.6% victory over Republican Jim Hagedorn. The latter man would claim the seat in 2018, open since Mr. Walz was running for Governor, and was re-elected in 2020. It is Mr. Hagedorn’s untimely passing that led to holding this special election. In 2018, Mr. Hagedorn won the 1st District seat with a 50.1 – 49.7% margin, a vote difference of just 1,315 votes.
In the late Congressman’s first and only re-election campaign, his vote percentage was 48.6 – 45.5%, with a Legalize Cannabis Party candidate and a scattering of write-in candidates garnering just under 6% of the total vote.
Therefore, from a percentage standpoint, factoring the voting history from the last four MN-1 congressional elections, including Tuesday’s special, it is Mr. Finstad who actually had the highest percentage vote total. Therefore, he ran ahead of the average Republican percentage in the last three elections and not behind as the Democrats allude.
The latest YouGov national poll of 1,500 US adults conducted for the Economist news publication over the July 30 – August 2nd period is a large-sample in-depth survey to test candidate preference in addition to issues and attitudes.
* denotes the candidate has received an AGC PAC contribution during the 2021-2022 election cycle.
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