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This Minnesota district is one that could decide control of Congress

This year Minnesota is home to the only two Democratic-held House seats that are rated a toss-up. Republican Jim Hagedorn and Democrat Dan Feehan are competing in a district that's voted for both parties, and where issues of health care and agriculture dominate. Special correspondent Mary Lahammer of Twin Cities PBS reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    With less than 50 days until the midterm elections, Democrats are hitting the campaign trail, hoping to pick up 23 seats to take control of the House of Representatives.

    One roadblock could be in Minnesota, where early voting has already started. The state is home to the only two Democratic-held seats that are rated a toss-up by election analyst.

    Mary Lahammer of Twin Cities PBS reports on the case both candidates are making in one of those districts.

  • Mary Lahammer:

    Minnesota's 1st Congressional District is an agricultural area with rich, rolling prairies which produce abundant crops.

    Politics is always prominent in the state that leads the nation in voter turnout, this season even more so, with some of the country's most watched congressional contests.

    Near the top of every list is CD-1. The candidates know control of Congress could be determined here.

  • Jim Hagedorn:

    More money, more attention, yes. Well, you're here, aren't you? So, yes, I guess so.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Jim Hagedorn:

    If you look at this district, basically, it's Southern Minnesota. For 150 years, it's been Republican, except for two 12-year stints.

  • Dan Feehan:

    But you also have to hold on to what you have. And this is one of the few seats in the country in which there is a very high need to do just that.

  • Mary Lahammer:

    This congressional seat in Southern Minnesota is a classic competitive district. President Bush won here twice, followed by President Obama and, most recently, President Trump had the best performance of any presidential candidate in the last decade.

  • Jim Hagedorn:

    Did you vote for Hillary?

  • Woman:

    Damn right I did.

  • Jim Hagedorn:

    There you go. OK, ma'am, thank you very much. I hope you have a good day. Sorry to bother you.

    What is that?

  • Woman:

    They better get that damn Trump out of there.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Jim Hagedorn:

    I think you can put her down as a definite maybe.

  • Mary Lahammer:

    The Republican candidate, Jim Hagedorn, has a father who represented the district in Washington.

  • Man:

    We like to support the candidates who share our values.

  • Mary Lahammer:

    He has run and last twice before, but he believes three times a charm.

  • Jim Hagedorn:

    Sometimes, in a big district — and this one is a big district — it takes a little time, especially against an incumbent, to get your name out there.

    The incumbent had been Democratic Congressman Tim Walz, who's now running for governor. Now, Dan Feehan is the Democrat in the race. He's one of a record number of veterans running for office this fall.

  • Dan Feehan:

    So, what is going on, brother? How you doing? You were just at the table over there.

  • Man:

    Yes.

  • Dan Feehan:

    Four years active, two years in the Guard myself as an officer.

    This is where I learned the value of public service, a value that carried with me throughout my life. I served two combat tours in the Army after I joined after 9/11. I was a middle school math teacher after that, which in many ways was a lot more difficult.

    (LAUGHTER)

  • Mary Lahammer:

    Both the candidates have roots in the region, and each has worked in D.C. But they have very different views of what's happening in Washington.

  • Jim Hagedorn:

    Are they good Republican dogs or Democrat dogs? What do you think?

  • Woman:

    Well, they're kind of a mixture.

  • Jim Hagedorn:

    Are they? Independent dog.

    I'm a conservative Republican that wants to keep moving the country in what I say is the right direction. So we offer the opportunity to stand with our president and stand for the issues we believe in. The other team, well, they want to resist. They want to replace. They want to move us back to Obama. So it's a clear choice.

  • Dan Feehan:

    We're trying to present a clear choice. You can vote for an extension of the Trump administration here, or you can vote for an independent voice that's not beholden to party leadership or to corporate PAC money.

  • Mary Lahammer:

    Two issues appear to be dominating the district, health care and agriculture.

  • Jim Hagedorn:

    Bad government like Obamacare, extra regulations, extreme energy costs, those things really hurt farmers and agriculture. It makes it tough for them to be sustained in tough times.

  • Dan Feehan:

    I'm not someone who wants to go backwards. I want your family, I want every farming family, frankly, I want every family in the country to be able to have affordable health care.

    And the fact that slowly import farmers have worked for generations to open up markets around the world, it's been on their backs that that's happened. And right now we have, in my view, what is a government intervention that has made that — taken that market away from right now.

  • Mary Lahammer:

    The last congressional race here was decided by less than 1 percentage point. This looks to be another one to watch.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm Mary Lahammer in Mankato, Minnesota.

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