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Republican Finstad Narrowly Wins Open Minnesota House Seat—That Could Be Bad News For GOP

Forbes logo Forbes 8/10/2022 Nicholas Reimann, Forbes Staff

Topline

Former Trump Administration official Brad Finstad (R) has defeated Democratic businessman Jeffrey Ettinger to win the special election for an open House seat in southern Minnesota, but his slim margin of victory may be a troubling sign for Republicans in a race that could be a bellwether for November's midterm elections.

Former Minnesota state Rep. Brad Finstad (R), center, is shown with former Democratic state Senators Matt Entenza, left, and Steve Murphy prior to the start of the Minnesota Twins and St. Louis Cardinals spring training baseball game on April 3, 2010 in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone) Copyright 2010 AP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. © Provided by Forbes Former Minnesota state Rep. Brad Finstad (R), center, is shown with former Democratic state Senators Matt Entenza, left, and Steve Murphy prior to the start of the Minnesota Twins and St. Louis Cardinals spring training baseball game on April 3, 2010 in Minneapolis. (AP Photo/Jim Mone) Copyright 2010 AP. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Key Facts

The AP called the race for Finstad at 9:25 a.m. Eastern time Wednesday, with more than 95% of the estimated vote counted.

Finstad held a lead with 51.1% of the vote, followed by Ettinger at 46.9%.

Minnesota's First Congressional District seat has been vacant since Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R) died on February 17, and Finstad will serve at least until the remainder of Hagedorn’s term, which is set to end in January 2023.

Both Finstad and Ettinger also won their party primaries Tuesday night to appear on the ballot in November's general election, setting up a rematch between the two to win a full two-year term.

Key Background

Both Finstad and Ettinger positioned themselves as moderates in a district that most observers say leans slightly Republican—the Cook Political Report gives the GOP a 7-percentage-point advantage in its rating of the First District. Ettinger, a former Hormel Foods CEO who self-funded his campaign, touted himself as a political outsider who was inspired to run after former President Donald Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021. Ettinger vowed to work with lawmakers of all political stripes, saying in a campaign ad, "I'll only take my orders from Minnesota." Finstad, who was elected to the Minnesota state House in 2003 at age 26 and later served more than three years as Minnesota state director of USDA Rural Development under Trump, ran a campaign centered around attacks on President Joe Biden, blaming him for the highest inflation the U.S. has experienced in decades.

What To Watch For

Republicans are expected to make major gains in the midterms by capitalizing on Biden's dismal approval ratings, but recent polling suggests Democrats may be starting to close the enthusiasm gap on the GOP. FiveThirtyEight modeling suggests Democrats have a 59% chance of keeping control of the Senate, in a major reversal from June, when the GOP had a 60% chance of taking the Senate. The GOP is still the overwhelming favorite to win control of the House, with a 79% chance, according to FiveThirtyEight, but their chances were near 90% in mid-July.

Further Reading

Minnesota voters will elect a new member of Congress Tuesday (NBC News)

Majority Disapprove Of Biden In Nearly 90% Of States, Poll Suggests (Forbes)

Finstad vs Ettinger in the First Congressional District special election (KARE-TV)

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