Jim Hagedorn points out that a lot has happened in the two years since he first challenged incumbent Tim Walz for Minnesota's 1st District seat in Congress. He said Republicans in the district have united and many issues he's campaigned on in 2014 have become key issues in the presidential race.
"They are talking about the big issues nationally," he told the Post Bulletin Editorial Board. "They are talking about the defense of the country, they're talking about the economy, they're talking about veteran's care, they're talking about Second Amendment, and that sets up nicely for our campaign, because I've been taking very bold stances on these issues."
However, one thing hasn't changed: The ideological divide between the candidates who met on the ballot two years ago. Walz earned 54 percent of the votes in the district in that matchup.
Hagedorn, a Republican from Blue Earth, continues to argue that Walz is a Washington insider who has lost touch with the district that covers 21 counties in southern Minnesota, especially on emerging issues. "In all these instances, it's at odds with the congressman's record, which is out of step with the district, in my opinion," he said.
Walz, a Mankato Democrat who has been in Congress for 10 years, said it's his opponent who is wrong for the district. "It's no secret. I strongly disagree with almost every fiber of my being disagree with almost every position of my opponent," he said.
Next week, it will be up for voters to decide which one is right to represent the district.
On many of the issues, the divide seems to be on how the candidate views the state of the nation. Hagedorn tends to ring the warning bell — regulations are stifling the economy, refugees could harbor threats and the Second Amendment is in jeopardy — while Walz points to a sometimes cautious, but positive, vision of America, seeking balance rather than making politically motivated "false choices."
It's obvious that the two years between campaigns has allowed Hagedorn to refine his campaign. While many of his assertions continue to be from a decidedly conservative viewpoint, he has mellowed how he delivers the message, pointing to critiques without taking them to the extremes we saw two years ago.
However, one issue stands out — veteran affairs.
Hagedorn went out of his way to criticize Walz for a lack of effort on reforms for VA hospitals. Without naming the bill, he also criticized the Clay Hunt SAV Act for not providing more mental health resources outside the VA system, which he said veterans don't trust with mental health issues.
It's a surprising tactic since Walz was a member of the Army National Guard for 24 years and is the highest-ranking enlisted man to serve in Congress. Well respected by numerous military organizations, the congressman could become the ranking minority member or chairman of the House's Veteran's Affairs Committee, if re-elected.
As for the Clay Hunt SAV Act, which provided funds for additional VA psychiatrists and community services, we note a minority member — Walz — was able to push it through during a legislative term that stymied many other efforts.
That effort highlights what we have seen in Walz throughout the last decade, a growing desire to reach out and make bipartisan efforts happen. In a time of increasing partisanship, that should become a priority for any member of Congress, which is why the Post Bulletin Editorial Board is endorsing the re-election of Tim Walz to Congress in Minnesota's 1st District.