Congressman Jim Hagedorn is happy to be back in his southern Minnesota district. He’s home from Washington, D.C., during the August recess. This visit is to Austin, Minn., home of Hormel. The first-term Republican made the rounds at the local Chamber of Commerce, shaking hands and exchanging pleasantries. Minnesota’s 1st congressional district (CD1), which extends across the state between the South Dakota and Wisconsin borders and includes the city of Rochester, has been a competitive swing area – and that fact is not lost on vocal, engaged voters. One woman at the gathering said she hears “a lot of us versus them” chatter.

Hagedorn explained, “In a nutshell what’s going on in Washington is what you see on TV, there’s a big divide between the two parties, big struggle where we want to go.”

The Republican, who recently married Minnesota Republican Party Chair Jennifer Carnahan, ran with President Donald Trump and is not backing off his support. Asked if he agreed with the “send her back” chants directed at fellow Minnesota Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, Hagedorn said, “I’m not getting involved in political correctness and identity politics. We’re just doing the job.”

But when pressed about the President and Rep. Omar, he added, “It’s not a subject I’ve ever delved into. I keep my head down in Washington working on behalf of the people.” When asked if he interacts with her as part of Minnesota’s delegation, he replied, “Rarely. Her positions are on extreme left, [and] I’m a conservative.”

Hagedorn would rather talk about agriculture, a dominant and important economic engine in a district that’s suffering through a difficult growing season due to wet spring and late summer and an uncertain global future for farmers. “Farmers understand China has been cheating, manipulating currency. Somebody should have taken that on 10 or 20 years go, [and we] finally have a president that did,” concludes the U.S. Representative.

Several of the cities with the highest Hispanic population in the state are in his district, including Worthington, Austin, Albert Lea and Faribault. Many communities in southern Minnesota depend on a diverse workforce to process agricultural products. When asked whether or not his district depends on refugees and immigrants to fill those jobs, Hagedorn responded, “People who come here legally and lawfully.”

But when he considers how diversity has impacted the district, he said, “I don’t look at it as diversity, I look it as people. If people want to live in southern Minnesota, we want to welcome them.” The congressman concluded, “There’s a pretty big segment of people in our county and in this district who would like people to come to our country lawfully and legally.”

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