ST. PAUL — Former teacher and veteran Dan Feehan on Tuesday, Oct. 1, announced that he would again challenge U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn for his 1st Congressional District seat in 2020.
The move could tee up a rematch in one of the country's most competitive congressional races. Hagedorn, a Republican, bested Feehan, a Democrat, in the 2018 contest by about 1,300 votes. The race flipped the congressional seat representing the band of southern Minnesota stretching from the state's border with South Dakota to the border with Wisconsin from Democrat-held to Republican-held.
Then-U.S. Rep. Tim Walz left the seat open in 2018 as he launched his bid for governor. The Democratic governor had held the seat since 2006.
Feehan in a news release said he hoped to take a new approach to fix the "broken system" in Washington, riffing on President Donald Trump's signature campaign slogan.
“As a former soldier, teacher, and public servant, I believe our politics should be about putting people first," Feehan said. "After 9/11, I volunteered for the Army because I love our country — and when my platoon was taking fire in Iraq, we were in it together, regardless of race, religion or politics. That’s what makes America great."
The Minnesota Republican Party on Tuesday lashed back at the news of Feehan's candidacy, saying the district had already rejected him despite strong a wave of support for other Democratic candidates across the country in 2018.
"During 2018's blue wave, voters in the First Congressional District rejected Dan Feehan and his socialist, far-left policies, but today he announced he's back for round two," state GOP Chairwoman Jennifer Carnahan said. "Feehan would be better suited in returning to the swamp where he spent 20 years than another failed attempt at pushing his progressive policies in Southern Minnesota."
Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party Chair Ken Martin rejected that assessment in an interview with Forum News Service, saying Feehan would better serve the region by representing the will of the voters rather than siding consistently with the president.
"The 1st District has been suffering under Donald Trump's trade policies. Jim Hagedorn has attached himself to Donald Trump and has not stood up for the people in his district and fought hard for them," Martin said. "Dan is going to remind voters just how important representation is in Washington and just having someone who puts their district ahead of their party."
Feehan was born in St. Paul and grew up north of Rochester. After the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, he signed up for the Army ROTC and went on to serve as an active-duty soldier between 2005 and 2009. During that time, he completed two combat tours as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Feehan earned the Bronze Star for Service, the Army Commendation Medal with Valor and the Ranger Tab.
Following his time in the Army, Feehan taught middle school and went on to become an acting assistant secretary of defense. He lives in Mankato with his wife Amy and two sons.
In a campaign ad released Tuesday, Feehan committed not to take any corporate PAC funds as part of his campaign. And he sought to contrast himself with Hagedorn, saying the Republican hadn't fought for southern Minnesota's priorities in his first nine months in Congress.
“Instead of fighting for middle-class families, he has repeatedly voted against lowering the cost of healthcare and prescription drugs, put rural hospitals at risk, and stood in silent support of economic uncertainty for our farmers while spreading hate and division in our communities," Feehan said. "We deserve better.”