Kaufman: Minnesota primary preview

While the GOP hasn’t won a statewide race in over a decade, they’re hoping to break through this fall and finally have a U.S. congressional advantage within Minnesota.

Though mail-in voting began weeks ago, Minnesota voters officially choose party nominees for the U.S. Senate, U.S. House and dozens of state legislative seats in 10 days.

Atop the ticket, U.S. Sen. Tina Smith will face off against four DFL challengers, as she seeks her first full term in office. Smith, often mocked as “the accidental senator,” was appointed to the position nearly three years ago and won a special election in 2018 against state Sen. Karin Housley. She’s since toed the party line when voting, even opposing the most-qualified nominees, frequently with fallacious rationale.

Republicans will decide between former U.S. Rep. Jason Lewis and four others. Lewis recently castigated Smith’s endorsement of firebrand Ilhan Omar. He also took issue with Gov. Tim Walz’s “draconian regulations” on reopening Minnesota schools. Lewis was endorsed by Vice President Mike Pence Monday

In the state’s southern tier, District 1 is set for a rematch of a 2018 nail biter decided by only 1,300 votes between incumbent Jim Hagedorn and military veteran Dan Feehan.

“Hagedorn’s support for police has been a much-needed bulwark against the Democrats’ artifice of widespread police brutality,” a millennial in Rochester said. “Americans should support limited government confined within a framework of natural law and be wary of the use of arbitrary power. Hagedorn approximates principles of limited power, believes in the sanctity of individuals, protection of the unborn and freedom of religion.”

Political outsider Tyler Kistner is the GOP endorsee in the 2nd District, which covers the southern metro and is expected to have one of the nation’s most competitive races. Incumbent Angie Craig is a top RNC target. She won the seat in 2018 by five points, unseating Lewis. Though she ran as a moderate, Craig has been a rubber stamp for Nancy Pelosi.

Kistner joined the Marine Corps after graduating from the University of Minnesota with a degree in history and a master’s in international relations. He was commissioned as an infantry officer in an elite special-operations command and deployed overseas four times during his military career.  

“I oppose Craig mainly because she enables the Pelosi agenda in the House,” HotAir’s Ed Morrissey emailed me. “If the state GOP can produce a worthy challenger to that, I’m foursquare behind him.”

In the suburban 3rd District, Kendall Qualls, a medical technology executive, challenges first-term Democratic Rep. Dean Phillips. The seat was in Republican hands for 50 years until 2018. If Qualls prevails, he’d be Minnesota’s first black GOP congressman. Married with five children, he has spent more than 20 years leading marketing teams and hopes to end our reliance on Chinese-manufactured pharmaceuticals. Qualls holds degrees from Cameron University, the University of Michigan, University of Oklahoma and also served as a U.S. Army captain. He’s been outspoken and uplifting during the recent wanton destruction and opportunistic anarchy. 

My friend in Maple Grove favors Qualls in what’s expected to be a close race. 

“I understand why Dean Phillips was elected, but he was born with a silver spoon and has been too partisan for a mixed district,” he said. “Qualls lives the American life. I am impressed with him. I cannot imagine anyone but the far left voting against this successful businessman and veteran.”

In the 4th District, GOP delegates chose Sia Lo to run against left-winger Betty McCollum, who’s held the seat for 20 years. 

Lo, whose family fled Communist Laos when he was a child, is the first Hmong-American to run for congress in Minnesota. Married with four children, he is a graduate of North Park University and Hamline University Law School. Lo worked in the St. Paul City and Ramsey County attorney’s offices before opening a private practice in St. Paul. He is a refugee success story.

“This is a heavily-Democrat district that hasn’t voted Republican since World War 2,” a GOP consultant told me. “But Sia is connected to the community and has a great story, while McCollum is a dour radical. She is rigid and doesn’t seem unsettled by the mayhem we’ve seen take over every space of public life.”

In the tumultuous 5th District, Republicans endorsed Lacy Johnson to seek the seat held by controversial first-term Rep. Ilhan Omar. A Minneapolis resident of more than four decades, Johnson built a career in information technology and engineering for several national corporations. He also headed small businesses and is involved in inner-city community organizations.

Omar also has a legitimate primary challenger in Antone Melton-Meaux. He has an array of strong supporters, while she has teachers unionsNancy PelosiKeith Ellison and the radical Justice Democrats. Perhaps there is reason for guarded optimism, as Melton-Meaux crushed her in recent fundraising.

This caused the corrupt Omar to begin running outlandish attack ads last week.

An acquaintance told me, “Antone is supported by a pro-Israel PAC, and I contributed to his campaign. He is articulate and a breath of fresh air. Hopefully he can make an inroad to the community and other moderates to recognize that Omar is truly toxic.”

Tom Emmer represents Minnesota’s 6th District in the northern suburbs and Saint Cloud. As a constituent, I believe he’s one of the most-respected congressmen in America. As the current National Republican Congressional Committee head, Emmer should roll to his fourth term. His opponent is a former TV host who’s never run for office.

Former state Sen. Michelle Fischbach won the Republican Party and President Trump’s endorsement to run against Rep. Collin Peterson in western Minnesota’s vast 7th District. Dave Hughes, who lost to Peterson by 10,000 votes in 2018, still hopes to beat out Fischbach in the primary. 

The 7th is not only one of the most pro-Trump districts in the country but the most conservative in America represented by a Democrat. Peterson has held the seat for three decades. Fischbach has served Minnesota nearly a quarter-century and outraised Peterson three consecutive quarters

“Michelle is a proven conservative and won’t back down from a challenge,” Campaign Manager Dave FitzSimmons told me. “She has been endorsed by every major pro-life group and has a lifetime A rating from the NRA for her flawless pro-Second Amendment record. She’s also been endorsed by the Freedom Club and nearly every legislator in the 7th District.”

Finally, up north in the 8th, Rep. Pete Stauber covers a massive area including Duluth, the Iron Range and North Shore. The blue-collar district, crushed by coronavirus edicts, best known for its mining and shipping industries, is bigger than 10 states.

Teamsters support Stauber, whose 2018 win was one of only three congressional districts that flipped to Republicans last cycle. His opponent is Quinn Nystrom, a woman from Baxter who’s never held office and is running unchallenged in the primary. A client in Cloquet relays that Stauber, who is favored, is “exactly what this district has always needed.” Even the liberal Duluth News-Tribune endorsed him.

While the GOP hasn’t won a statewide race in over a decade, they’re hoping to break through this fall and finally have a U.S. congressional advantage within Minnesota. It’s now August; we’ll see next Tuesday and again in November.