After extensive deliberation and a prolonged period of recruitment, state Sen. Carla Nelson, R-Rochester, has decided against mounting a bid for the 1st Congressional District seat held by DFL U.S. Rep. Tim Walz. Nelson had been urged to run by local and national Republican strategists, but ultimately felt she would prefer to focus on legislative service rather than campaigning for higher office.
“At the end of the day, I just realized that, really, my heart, my passion, my desire is right here in Minnesota,” Nelson told Politics in Minnesota on Tuesday.
Nelson’s choice leaves three Republican candidates seeking the right to challenge Walz in 2014. Rep. Mike Benson, R-Rochester, has opted to leave the Legislature for the chance to run against the DFL incumbent, and is joined by Aaron Miller, a Command Sergeant Major in the Army Reserves, and Jim Hagedorn, a longtime federal government employee whose father, Tom Hagedorn, once represented the same district in Congress.
Third-quarter fundraising results found Walz holding a healthy lead in terms of cash on hand, with $238,000 in his campaign account, compared to about $15,000 for Benson and $54,000 for Miller, who loaned his own campaign $40,000.
Nelson said her decision doesn’t preclude a future run for the office. But, faced earlier this week with the choice of visiting local Republican activist meetings or attending a public discussion of importance to the city of Rochester, the two-term state senator said she realized she wanted to continue to work in her Senate district rather than run for a job in Washington, D.C.
“I absolutely love what I’m doing now, and the Senate seat I represent is a vital Senate seat,” said Nelson, who pointed to Rochester as an area with industrial and economic growth opportunities. “I want to stay and work, and concentrate my efforts right here.”
Nelson said she would eventually endorse one of her fellow Republicans in the CD 1 race, but wasn’t ready to commit to one candidate yet. As for Walz, now in his fourth term representing a relatively conservative district, Nelson said the Democratic incumbent is beatable next year.
“Tim Walz is very likeable,” Nelson said. “He’s a very good person, very affable. But I believe that some of his votes are very much at odds with the district, so I do believe it is a winnable Republican seat.”