Minnesota GOP chair was forced to resign last year. Now she's running for Congress.


Jennifer Carnahan was forced out of her job as chair of the Minnesota Republican Party over ties to an alleged sex trafficker.

Former Minnesota Republican Party Chair Jennifer Carnahan announced on Monday that she's running for Congress to succeed her late husband — despite having been booted from her job atop her state's GOP over her ties to an alleged child sex trafficker just a few months ago.

"It's official. I'm running to honor my husband's wish that I run for, and win, his seat," Carnahan, the widow of the late Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-MN), tweeted. "Jim fought so hard to put Minnesota first. I promise you I will continue his fight."

Last August, Carnahan was forced to resign from her role as chair of the Minnesota Republican Party, after a donor she was close with was arrested on federal sex trafficking charges.

Carnahan was a co-host of a podcast with Anton Lazzaro, who was arrested in August and charged with recruiting minors to "engage in commercial sex acts," according to a news release from the Justice Department.

Carnahan denied knowing of Lazzaro's alleged child sex trafficking, but resigned under pressure, saying that it was "in the best interest" of her party.

Those who pushed for Carnahan's ouster called her relationship with Lazzaro "troubling." Other Republicans in the state accused Carnahan of having "toxic conflicts of interest."

Hagedorn, who represented Minnesota's 1st Congressional District, died in February after a battle with kidney cancer and later COVID-19.

The 1st District, which runs along Minnesota's southern border with Iowa, leans Republican. And it's unclear whether Carnahan's candidacy would put the seat in play for Democrats if she won the GOP nomination.

Republican members of the House from Minnesota had supported Carnahan's dismissal.

They included Rep. Tom Emmer, who chairs the National Republican Congressional Committee. It's unclear whether he'd support her if she won the nomination for the race.

"Jennifer Carnahan's resignation is the first step in moving the Republican Party of Minnesota forward," Emmer tweeted back in August. "However, if we are to restore integrity and live by the conservative values we stand for, there is more work to be done. I urge the executive board to continue on with full investigations into any alleged impropriety."

Emmer's office did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the American Independent Foundation.

Rep. Michelle Fischbach also supported Carnahan's resignation.

"The allegations and revelations of this past week have been heartbreaking. As a mother and grandmother, my sympathy and support are with the victims. Chairwoman Carnahan's resignation allows the Republican Party of Minnesota to move forward," Fischbach tweeted in August.

Carnahan joins a crowded GOP primary field that includes a number of current and former state representatives.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.