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Congressman Jim Hagedorn dies at age 59

Hagedorn’s wife, former GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan, said that Hagedorn died Thursday night.

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U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn speaks during a ribbon cutting event for the new, four lane portion of U.S. Highway 14 between Dodge Center and Owatonna Tuesday, Nov. 9, 2021, near Claremont.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin
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BLUE EARTH, Minn. — Congressman Jim Hagedorn has died at the age of 59.

Hagedorn’s wife, former GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan, said that Hagedorn died Thursday night.

"Jim loved our country and loved representing the people of southern Minnesota. Every moment of every day he lived his dream by serving others. There was no stronger conservative in our state than my husband; and it showed in how he voted, led and fought for our country.” Carnahan said in a Facebook post.

Hagedorn was seen as a strong contender to win a third term, but his passing creates a wide-open race. Until now, not a single Democrat had jumped into the race.

There could be a special election called by Gov. Tim Walz to fill his seat. If there is, according to statute, it could be held on the day of the primary.

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“You could not design a more wide-open contest,” said Steven Schier, a political analyst.

Hagedorn fought tenaciously for a congressional seat, spending the better part of the last decade running for office.

He ran three previous times before winning the House seat in 2018. He ran in 2010 and dropped out after failing to get the Republican endorsement. In 2014, he defeated Aaron Miller in the GOP primary and went on to lose in the general election to then-Rep. Tim Walz. He lost again against Walz in 2016.

In 2018, he ran a neck-and-neck race against Democrat Dan Feehan and eked out a narrow victory. He won again in 2020.

“I think he really represented ag and small business very well,” said Bill Kuisle, a former GOP state legislator. “He did spend a lot of time in the district. His tenacity to get elected was second to none.”

Hagedorn was a passionate conservative and ran unabashedly as a supporter of President Trump’s platform and policies. He served on ag committees, was a strong gun rights supporter and an acerbic critic of what he considered President Joe Biden’s loose border policies.

Republican colleagues mourned his death.

“Jim was a dear friend who wanted nothing more than to represent the people of Minnesota’s 1st District in Congress,” said Reps. Tom Emmer, Michelle Fischbach and Pete Stauber. “He did so every day with an unwavering passion and unshakeable joy that brightened the halls of Congress.”

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Born in 1962, Hagedorn was raised on a 160-acre grain and livestock farm outside of Truman, Minn., according to his official biography.

Hagedorn’s dad was a congressman representing the 2nd Congressional District from 1975 to 1983, a fact that Hagedorn mentioned in all of his news releases.

During his dad’s tenure, Hagedorn’s family split its time between Washington and Minnesota, spending the school year in the Virginia suburbs of D.C. and returning each summer to the Truman farm.

Those years gave him an up-close perspective on national politics, and GOP leaders such as Ronald Reagon, Henry Hyde and Jack Kemp became his political heroes.

Hagedorn also served as a legislative aide to Rep. Arlan Stangeland. Hagedorn also worked in the U.S. Department of the Treasury and the congressional affairs office for the Bureau of Engraving and Printing.

Hagedorn announced that his kidney cancer resurfaced in July 2021.

In January, Hagedorn was under observation at Mayo Clinic after he tested positive for COVID-19. He said he was vaccinated and had “very mild symptoms.” Due to his cancer treatment, he said his doctors asked that he stay and receive medical care for the virus at Mayo Clinic.

After the news of Hagedorn's passing became public on Friday, members of Minnesota's congressional delegation shared memories of the congressman. And they paid their respects to his family.

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“Jim and I served in the U.S. House during a time of many great challenges for our nation and for our state – and all the while, he bravely endured the personal challenge of cancer treatment with dignity and grace while serving our country and his constituents," U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum, a Democrat representing the state's 4th Congressional District, said. "Despite our policy differences on many issues, Jim and I were united in the common goal of achieving greater opportunities for future generations of Minnesotans.

Rep. Dean Phillips, a Democrat representing Minnesota's 3rd Congressional District, echoed that sentiment, saying on Twitter, "We had different political views but a respectful friendship and a shared love for Minnesota and our country."

This is a breaking story. Check back for updates.


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