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Former Hormel Foods CEO joins Minnesota congressional race

In addition to Jeff Ettinger's filing Thursday was Matt Benda, an agricultural law attorney from Albert Lea.
Credit: AP
People walk outside the U.S. Capitol building in Washington, Friday, Jan. 7, 2022. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

AUSTIN, Minn. — The race to succeed the late U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn grew Thursday as a former CEO of Hormel Foods announced he's running as a Democrat and an Albert Lea attorney joined the GOP field.

Jeff Ettinger served as CEO of Hormel from 2005 until 2016, a time of major growth for the Austin-based food company best known for its meat brands like Spam, Cure 81 ham, Black Label bacon, Jennie-O Turkey and Dinty Moore beef stew.

“I’m not a politician,” Ettinger said in a statement. “I’m a business leader and ran one of the largest companies in southern Minnesota. I’m proud of the work our team did at Hormel to grow the company and provide more opportunities for our employees but I’m equally proud of our work in making the Austin community a better place to live. I’d like to continue that work for all of southern Minnesota.

Also filing Thursday was Matt Benda, an agricultural law attorney from Albert Lea.

“The First Congressional District is Minnesota’s agricultural breadbasket filled with hard-working people farming our land, running main street businesses and saving lives with world class healthcare," Benda said in a statement. “Congressman Jim Hagedorn was a tireless advocate for these foundational pillars, and I would be honored to carry on his work in these critical areas.”

Hagedorn died of kidney cancer two weeks ago. Gov. Tim Walz has called a special primary for May 24, followed by a special election on Aug. 9 to fill out the rest of Hagedorn's term. The filing period closes Tuesday.

Other candidates in the southern Minnesota district include Republican State Rep. Jeremy Munson and former Rep. Brad Finstad, and Democrats Richard Painter and Sarah Brakebill-Hacke.

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