Exclusive ABC 6 News poll: Finstad leads Ettinger in 1st Congressional District race

(ABC 6 News) – All eyes are on an open seat in the United States House of Representatives, as Southern Minnesota gets ready for a special election to fill the vacancy.

In an exclusive ABC 6 News/SurveyUSA poll, Republican candidate Brad Finstad pulls ahead of Democratic candidate Jeff Ettinger in the race for Congressional District One.

According to the survey, 46% of 544 likely and actual voters say their vote is for Finstad. Ettinger is behind him at 38% of voters. 8% of those surveyed say they are still undecided. Political Analyst Shane Baker says the race is not over for Ettinger.

"I think if I’m Ettinger I’d feel good about…doing quite well in building name recognition and building some momentum — and at 38%, that’s within striking distance," Baker said.

The district has bounced back and forth between parties since the 80s. Before the late Republican Congressman Jim Hagedorn held the seat, it was Democrat Tim Walz. Before Walz was Republican Gil Gutknecht, then Tim Penny.

For Democrats to get the seat back, Baker says Ettinger needs to increase voter participation in an unusual, and often unheard of, special election.

"It probably won’t come down to conversion. It will come down to participation."

Of 704 registered voters polled, 12% say they already voted and 46% say they are certain to vote. However, 19% say they will only probably vote, 11% say there is a 50-50 chance they will vote, 10% say they will probably not vote, and 2% say they are still unsure.

This race may yield just a few months on Capitol Hill, but it has longer implications.

"If you win the special election you’re going to be in Washington, You did the job for a certain amount of time, and with that comes some built in advantages: name recognition and access to people," Baker said of the CD1 seat.

Baker says while winning the special election will grant a leg up to the chosen candidate for the upcoming November general election, the term length is short enough, it may not make as much of a difference as others believe.