EXCLUSIVE — Rep. Scott Perry is endorsing Jeremy Munson in the special House election in Minnesota, signaling likely Freedom Caucus support for the Republican legislator over Jennifer Carnahan, the former state GOP chairwoman and widow of Rep. Jim Hagedorn.
Hagedorn died Feb. 17 after a bout with cancer, sparking a special election in Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District, with the primary set for May 24 and the general contest scheduled for Aug. 9. Perry, a Pennsylvania Republican and chairman of the influential House Freedom Caucus, announced Monday he was backing Munson over Carnahan and several other GOP primary contenders in a bid to coalesce grassroots conservatives behind the state representative’s candidacy.
“Jeremy Munson has earned my enthusiastic endorsement for Congress, and I’m excited to welcome him to the team. Jeremy has a proven record of standing up to establishment pressure and doing what’s right for the People of southern Minnesota,” Perry said in a statement first shared with the Washington Examiner.
“Jeremy does more than just talk the talk, he has walked the walk,” Perry added. “His principled leadership is desperately needed as we take back the majority and correct the course of our Republic.”
'HIS ACT IS WEARING THIN': NORTH CAROLINA REPUBLICANS GRIPE ABOUT MADISON CAWTHORN
Rural, southern Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District leans Republican, with the new boundaries approved in decennial redistricting expected to continue the GOP’s advantage in a seat former President Donald Trump won with 54% of the vote in 2020.
Combined with a midterm election environment shaping up as a GOP wave, Republicans are on track to hold this seat in the special election. Worried conservative voters might split their votes among the several primary candidates and open a path to the nomination for a more pragmatic Republican, Perry moved quickly to signal the House Freedom Caucus’s likely preference for Munson and the resources that could mean for his campaign, although the endorsement was strictly personal.
“As chair of the House Freedom Caucus, Scott Perry dedicates his service to expanding individual liberty and limiting the overreaching hand of the federal government,” Munson said. “I look forward to working with Scott to advance our America-First movement once elected to represent Minnesota’s First Congressional district.”
Some Republicans anchored in the traditional wing of the party are eyeing former state Rep. Brad Finstad as the most formidable, broadly appealing contender.
But what immediately stood out about Perry’s endorsement was that he spurned Carnahan, Hagedorn’s widow. Typically, when a House member dies in office and a special election is called, the surviving spouse has the inside track to their party’s support in the ensuing campaign, should they choose to run. Not so in this summer’s special election in Minnesota, where Carnahan, 46, once a rising Republican star there, is just one of many GOP candidates.
Carnahan’s challenges could stem from her controversial exit from the chairwomanship of the Minnesota Republican Party. Carnahan, who had recently been elected to a third, two-year term as chairwoman, left the post after a Republican donor with whom she was close was indicted on federal charges of child sex-trafficking. The state GOP paid Carnahan a $38,000 severance, which could be another thorny issue for her to navigate in her congressional campaign.
CLICK HERE TO READ MORE FROM THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER
Carnahan and Hagedorn were married in 2018. His victory in Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District that same year was among the GOP’s few bright spots amid a Democratic wave that swept Republicans from power in the House.
"Though my heart is still heavy after Jim’s passing, the encouragement I have received from throughout southern Minnesota has inspired me to carry on his legacy by running to complete the remainder of his term," Carnahan said in a statement.