Munson loan boosts fundraising for open congressional seat

ST. PAUL, Minnesota — State Representative Jeremy Munson is leading all candidates in the special Republican primary fundraiser for the open seat in Congress of the late U.S. Representative Jim Hagedorn, including his widow Jennifer Carnahan, but only because Munson loaned his campaign $200,000 of his own money.

Friday was the deadline for filing congressional campaign statements with the Federal Election Commission for the first quarter. They show Munson had raised $302,234 including his loan, spent $5,090 and had $297,144 left in the bank as of March 31 for the May 24 special primary.

Carnahan, a former Minnesota GOP state chairman, was more withdrawn with the other Republican candidates, all of whom are running as staunch conservatives. They’ve all been scrambling to organize since the Blue Earth Republican died of kidney cancer on Feb. 18. The winners of the primary will stand in a special general election on Aug. 9 to fill the remainder of Hagedorn’s term. The November election will determine who gets the seat next in Southern Minnesota’s 1st District.

Fundraising does not guarantee victory, but it is an important indicator of who is progressing in the tight political season. Name recognition can also be important in a field where most candidates are not widely known.

On the Democratic side, former Hormel Inc. CEO Jeff Ettinger of Austin raised $148,384, spent $5,213 and was left with $143,171. Richard Painter, former White House chief ethics counsel for President George W. Bush, raised $22,226, spent $4,926 and had $17,300 in the bank.

Munson, of Lake Crystal, is one of four members of the new hard-right Republican caucus, which broke with the main Minnesota House GOP caucus in 2019 over personality and ideological differences. He touted his endorsements from national conservative leaders, including House Freedom Caucus chairman and vice-chairman, U.S. Representatives Scott Perry of Pennsylvania and Jim Jordan of Ohio, as well as former president of Minnesota GOP Keith Downey.

Albert Lea’s farm lawyer Matt Benda was second in cash after raising $183,651 and spending $13,236, leaving him with $170,415.

Former State Rep. Brad Finstad, of New Ulm, former USDA State Director of Rural Development for Minnesota during the Trump administration, raised $156,196, spent $5,980 and had $150,217 in bank. He was encouraged by mentions of US Representatives Michelle Fischbach and Pete Stauber.

Carnahan raised $151,396, spent $30,233 and was left with $121,163. She resigned under fire as state party chair last August, saying she had been expelled. She denied allegations of promoting a toxic work environment and denied having advance knowledge of any wrongdoing by top donor and GOP friend Anton Lazzaro, whose sex trafficking indictment led to her downfall.

State Representative Nels Pierson of Rochester raised $111,050, spent $3,284 and had $107,766 in the bank. It has been endorsed by several Republican lawmakers.

Hagedorn’s campaign raised $992,162 in the quarter, but shelled out $728,723 — much of it in donor refunds — and $344,570 remained as of March 31.

In another race that is gaining national attention, Democratic incumbent Angie Craig has a big fundraising lead over GOP nominee Tyler Kistner. It will be a rematch of their 2020 race, which Craig narrowly won. The redistricting shifted the suburban-rural 2nd District to the west, but didn’t change the political balance much, so both are working hard to present themselves to their new voters.

Craig raised over $3.6 million and spent $997,132 to end the quarter with nearly $3.7 million. Kistner raised nearly $1.6 million, spent nearly $1.2 million, and was left with $423,809.

U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar takes on a Democratic primary challenger in the Minneapolis-based 5th District. The FEC has not released the report of former Minneapolis City Councilman Don Samuels, a campaign leader who defeated a 2021 ballot measure to curb police, but his campaign said it raised over $350,000 and had over $320,000 left. That final bankroll was not far behind Omar, who raised over $1.9 million, spent nearly $1.6 million, and was left with $492,972.

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