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Republicans nationwide see Minnesota’s 1st Congressional District as one they need to flip come November.

That’s why Rochester state Sen. Carla Nelson said she decided to run for the seat, despite the fact she is becoming one of the more influential members in the Minnesota state Legislature.

“I have a four-year senate term,” said Nelson, chair of the E-12 education finance committee. “I’m a senior member. I have a gavel. Forty percent of the budget runs through my gavel. But do you know why I’m running? I’m running because I can’t sit on the sidelines. I think the stakes are too great. I believe in our country. I believe we are a shining city on the hill.”

And Nelson is convinced her primary opponent, Blue Earth businessman Jim Hagedorn, doesn’t have what it takes to win the general election in November. She said many others in the district, which spans from the southern part of the state from border to border, share her views.

“People are thrilled to know that they have a better choice,” Nelson said in a phone interview with the Daily News earlier this week. “Different counties have different terms for it. Some say they are tired of the ‘Hagedorn Hangover’ or ‘I’m thrilled to have someone that I can vote for and be glad to vote for.’ There’s a lot of enthusiasm for a fresh, well-known proven conservative with a track record for winning elections.”

Nelson doesn’t beat around the bush when asked how she compares to Hagedorn, who won the Republican endorsement in April. If you mention that this is Hagedorn’s third consecutive time running for the 1st Congressional District seat, she’s quick to mention that he also ran in 2010 (although he didn’t win the primary).

She called Hagedorn a “blogger who is good at talking,” then quickly adds “that’s all that he has done.”

“I have a proven conservative record,” she said. “I’ll put that up against anyone. The president’s agenda is the very agenda I’ve been voting on in the Legislature ... tax cuts, billions of dollars of infrastructure without raising taxes of fees, slashing regulations to let farmers farm and businesses grow.

“I’ve done those things, and he’s only talked about them.”

Nelson also touted her history of winning elections — she won a state House seat in 2002 and was first elected to the state Senate in 2010 — and winning them handily. She won her last two races by more than 10 points.

“It’s important that we win this seat,” Nelson said. “The Democrats aren’t just going to roll over and hand it to us.”

She also said she’s proud to have lived in the district for 35 years, where they raised three children. Nelson and her husband, Terry, own an insurance business in Rochester, but she said their roots are in agriculture.

“Our first date was at a farm bureau annual meeting,” said Nelson, a granddaughter of farmers. “The second was at a tractor pull.”

They saw what the farm crisis of the 1980s did both to farmers and those on “Main Street,” so Nelson is concerned about where the escalating trade war with China will lead. But she stands behind President Trump, she said, as he tries to level the playing field with foreign trading partners.

“China is stealing our intellectual property,” she said. “Most of the farmers that I have visited with are just like me. They’re watching carefully, not wanting to see this escalate, but also know that we need to right this trade imbalance.”

Nelson was recently endorsed by the National Rifle Association — “It was interesting that they did that before the primary,” she said — and has endorsements from Maggie’s List and CatholicVote, which she said back up her conservative principles.

“This is one of the top five house races in the nation,” Nelson said. “The fact that there’s so much support across the board for my nomination is a sign that we need to get our strongest candidate on the ballot in November. We can and should win this congressional seat from the Democrats.”

“The president’s agenda is the very agenda I’ve been voting on in the Legislature ... tax cuts, billions of dollars of infrastructure without raising taxes of fees, slashing regulations to let farmers farm and businesses grow. I’ve done those things, and he’s only talked about them.” State Sen. Carla Nelson, GOP candidate for Congress
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