MANKATO — Democrat Dan Feehan is running once more against Republican Jim Hagedorn to represent southern Minnesota in Congress.

Feehan is beginning his campaign for the U.S. House 1st Congressional District seat today. He said he plans to emphasize his independent streak and ensure constituents know “people come first.”

“At the core of what my life has been, growing up in southern Minnesota, the idea is we are here to serve each other,” Feehan said. “That ideal has driven every step of my life.”

Feehan, 36, of North Mankato, was born in St. Paul and grew up in Red Wing but moved away as a teen. He served two tours in Iraq in the Army, was a National Guard captain, and taught in Illinois and Indiana. In 2013, he was tapped to serve as a Pentagon official in the Obama administration.

He challenged Hagedorn in 2018 for the congressional seat then-U.S. Rep. Tim Walz gave up to run for governor. Yet Hagedorn won by 1,300 votes out of more than 300,000 cast, one of the smallest margins of victory not just for the district but for any major U.S. election in 2018.

While Feehan captured support in southern Minnesota’s larger cities, Hagedorn beat him by larger numbers in the region’s more rural areas. Feehan said he’s already organizing a massive outreach to hit all parts of the district. Though Feehan has long been rumored to be running against Hagedorn again, he said he’s spent a good portion of his time visiting with southern Minnesotans not as a candidate but as a concerned neighbor.

“You want to get to know people,” Feehan said. “Campaigns are all about people ... You want to make sure they know how appreciated they are. You want to make sure they know what’s going on with you.”

Yet Feehan appears to be ready to take his campaign on the offensive more readily than in 2018. He spent the majority of his first congressional campaign focused on issues and avoiding directly attacking Hagedorn. Now Feehan believes the Blue Earth Republican needs to be taken to task since he’s got a congressional record.

“I am disappointed and, frankly, disturbed by the way he has conducted himself,” Feehan said of Hagedorn. “The people have not come first, the corporations do with him as representative.”

Feehan said he’s concerned Hagedorn is only working business interests in the district. Feehan accused Hagedorn of working against residents’ interests in trying to dismantle Obamacare or supporting President Donald Trump’s ongoing trade feuds with other countries. As a result, Feehan believes Hagedorn shares the blame for the rising cost of prescription medicine, the fact fewer people have health insurance and the district’s ongoing agricultural pain — Del Monte closing its Sleepy Eye plant and the Corn Plus ethanol plant closing in Winnebago, among other issues.

“In no way has he engaged to find actual solutions,” Feehan said. “Rather, I’d say the opposite. He’s made them worse.”

Aside from health care and agricultural economics, Feehan said he’s also going to champion ongoing foreign policy issues. He’d like to see the U.S. end its involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, among other conflicts.

“We have continued those wars for more than 18 years to the cost of trillions of dollars,” Feehan said. “It’s trillions of dollars not going to our communities when it could be going to infrastructure needs or our health care.”

Feehan said he still hopes to act as an independent check in Congress without support from moneyed interests.

That could prove difficult, as Hagedorn’s seat is already a major priority for national Democrats looking to gain more ground in the House. Outside interests spent almost $13 million on the 2018 election according to data compiled by ProPublica, with $10.5 million spent on negative ads.

Feehan was the subject of several negative ads linking him to Democratic booster George Soros and Nancy Pelosi, which critics decried as anti-Semitic. Feehan said he expects voters to remember those ads and the 2018 campaign, but he also hopes to continue a positive-sounding campaign. He may even bring back a series of “Service Saturday” events from last year where his campaign sponsored volunteer projects in communities they canvassed.

“This is a campaign that wants to be inclusive to anyone,” he said.

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