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Jennifer Carnahan announces run for Congress

Carnahan, the former state Republican chair, will be on the ballot in a special election for the seat left vacant by her husband, the late Rep. Jim Hagedorn.

ST PAUL, Minn. — Former Minnesota GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan has formally announced a run for Congress. Carnahan threw her name in the ring in a special election to fill the now-vacant seat in Minnesota's first district following the death of her husband Jim Hagedorn. 

According to her Twitter bio, Carnahan is "Running to honor my husband @RepHagedorn and continue our fight to put Minnesota first."

In a press release, Carnahan wrote “I am proud to announce my candidacy to represent Minnesota’s First Congressional District. Though my heart is still heavy after Jim’s passing, the encouragement I have received from throughout southern Minnesota has inspired me to carry on his legacy by running to complete the remainder of his term.

“In the final weeks before his passing, Jim told me to keep forging ahead, to keep reaching my dreams, and to win this seat. Jim was my best friend and the love of my life, and it is his blessing that strengthens me for the challenges ahead. I am committed to continuing my husband’s legacy of fighting to secure the border, defending conservative values, safeguarding the integrity of our elections, and serving the people of Minnesota’s First Congressional District."

Rep. Jim Hagedorn died on Feb. 17 while battling Stage 4 kidney cancer. 

RELATED: U.S. Congressman Jim Hagedorn dies after cancer battle

Carnahan has ben involved in state politics for years, most recently as Minnesota's GOP Chairperson, a position she resigned in August of 2021. 

She had come under fire for her close ties with Anton Lazzaro, a Republican party donor now facing charges for allegedly recruiting six minor victims to engage in commercial sex acts. Carnahan and Lazzaro hosted a podcast together and were often seen together socially, prompting many within party to call for her removal. 

In a statement, Carnahan denied having any knowledge of Lazzaro's alleged criminal activity, saying, "I trust that justice will be served, and he will spend the rest of his life in prison."

RELATED: Former GOP operative files motion to dismiss sex trafficking indictment

Carnahan isn't the first candidate to put in a bid for the First District seat. Last week Jeff Ettinger, former CEO of Hormel Foods, announced he would be running as a Democrat and Matt Benda, an agricultural law attorney from Albert Lea, will be running on the GOP ticket. 

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.

A special primary is scheduled for May 24, followed by a special election Aug. 9 to fill out the rest of Hagedorn's term.

RELATED: Former Hormel Foods CEO joins Minnesota congressional race

RELATED: Special election will decide Hagedorn's replacement

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