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Jennifer Carnahan Announces Run For Late Husband's House Seat: 'It Was One Of His Wishes'

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Billing herself as a "trusted conservative" and "Trump Republican," former Minnesota GOP party chair Jennifer Carnahan announced Monday she will run in the special election for the House seat vacated by her late husband's death.

Rep. Jim Hagedorn, who represented Minnesota's 1st Congressional District since 2019, died Feb. 17.

The 1st District runs across the entirety of southern Minnesota, but also includes the Mankato area. It's one of the few swing districts in country, meaning either party could win the seat.

Here is the full list of candidates so far, as of noon on Monday:

* Warren Lee Anderson, DFL
* Matt Benda, GOP
* Sarah Brakebill-Hacke, DFL
* Jennifer Carnahan, GOP
* Bob "Again" Carney Jr., GOP
* Rick DeVoe, DFL
* Jeff Ettinger, DFL
* J.R. Ewing, GOP
* Brad Finstad, GOP
* George H. Kalberer, DFL
* Kevin Kocina, GOP
* Jeremy Munson, GOP
* Nels Pierson, GOP
* Ken Navitsky, GOP
* Richard W. Painter, DFL
* Richard B. Reisdorf, Legal Marijuana Now
* Roger Ungemach, GOP

ELECTION: Candidates Filed For Congressional District 1 as of March 14 | CD1 Special Election Info

Tuesday is the deadline for entering the race. Carnahan signed the paperwork Monday to enter the race to fill the term of her late husband.

"Before he passed, it was one of his wishes that I fulfill his legacy and complete his term," Carnahan said. "And I want to complete that promise that I made to my husband."

Carnahan was party chair from 2017-2021. She was forced to resign in August after her close associate and GOP donor Anton Lazzaro was arrested on federal sex trafficking charges. She also faced allegations of cultivating a toxic work environment and ignoring claims of sexual harassment by members of her staff. Carnahan has denied these allegations, and said she did not know anything about Lazarro's alleged criminal activity.

"The question that no one ever asked over time was why was I being singled out for that," Carnahan said.

Jennifer Carnahan
Jennifer Carnahan (credit: CBS)

On the Republican's side, political analyst David Schultz thinks Carnahan could stand out.

"She has both a lot of friends but also a lot of enemies in the Republican Party. She's got a lot of name recognition," Schultz said. "I would have to think in a very crowded field, she goes near to the top of the list."

The Minnesota DFL responded to Carnahan's announcement with a statement Monday morning.

"It was not long ago that Jennifer Carnahan had to resign in disgrace as Chairwoman of the Minnesota Republican Party after her complete and total mismanagement of the organization became public," Party Chair Ken Martin said. "Jennifer Carnahan's leadership ability has been entirely discredited by those who worked most closely with her. It is clear that Carnahan has no business serving in any elected office whatsoever."

The special election in August will decide who will fill the remaining months of Hagedorn's term. Then in November, voters in Wabasha and Goodhue counties join 1st District voters to decide who will hold the seat in Congress for the next two-year term.

District boundaries are also changing because it will be the first election since redistricting. Secretary of State Steve Simon previously said the special election will take place within the current congressional district boundaries, not the new 2022 redistricting maps.

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