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First District GOP chooses 19-year-old as president

The new GOP chairman for Minnesota’s first congressional district is a 19-year-old determined to keep Republicans in control of the seat as a special election quickly approaches.

Party delegates in southern Minnesota decided last month to elect Aaron Farris as the Republican Party’s first congressional district president, as the GOP faces a grueling campaign season following the death of Republican Rep. Jim Hagedorn.

“I’m bringing a new set of ideas, definitely a more modern approach to campaigning, using social media, the internet, different types of campaigning that involve more technology,” Farris said in an interview.

A crowded group of Republicans is aiming to win the May 24 special primary for the seat. Hours after Farris was elected president last month, the First District GOP failed to approve a regular run in the midterm elections despite seven rounds of voting on congressional candidates.

“My main goal is obviously to keep this district in Republican hands, regardless of our Republican nominee,” Farris said.

Democrats held the seat for more than a decade before Hagedorn toppled it midterm in 2018, with the Republican facing a close election that year and in 2020.

“Usually a CD chairman brings a bit more experience,” said Jim Hepworth, 74, who most recently served as DFL chairman for the First District. Hepworth added that he was “surprised that it was him they chose”.

Farris said he started getting involved in Republican politics when he was 14 and is currently taking online classes at Rasmussen University.

“I’m one of those people who, instead of sitting around complaining about problems and waiting for other people to solve them, I like being someone who’s part of the solution,” Farris said.

He can also highlight his political experience to date, which includes other First District GOP positions and campaigning for Hagedorn in the 2018 and 2020 cycles. He is also Vice Chairman of the Freeborn County Republicans and cited inflation and gas prices among the main issues he focuses on.

On Friday, Farris could be seen working in the room and speaking to delegates at the state’s GOP convention as Republicans prepared to debate endorsements in statewide races.

Farris said he announced his run for president in January while Hagedorn was still alive. But Hagedorn’s death in February at the age of 59 changed the political calculus for the seat, with a long list of Republicans and Democrats trying to win it.

“I thought if I won, I would be CD chair for an incumbent congressman with a normal election cycle in a good Republican year,” Farris said. “And obviously it’s all been turned upside down right now. So it’s a lot busier than I expected. Totally ok with that. But it’s just a lot busier.”

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