Jennifer Carnahan countersues Hagedorn family members, alleging defamation during her House campaign

The new court filings allege that family members of Carnahan's husband, the late U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn, defamed her in a "malicious attempt to ruin Carnahan's congressional campaign."

Jennifer Carnahan
Jennifer Carnahan, who ran in the special election for the open 1st Congressional District seat, is photographed on March 29, 2022, after speaking at Harvest Church in Rochester.
Joe Ahlquist / Post Bulletin file photo

FARIBAULT COUNTY, Minn. — In response to a conciliation court ruling late last year, former Minnesota GOP chair Jennifer Carnahan has filed a counterclaim against family members of her husband, the late 1st District Rep. Jim Hagedorn, disputing the claims cases and alleging defamation.

According to answer and counterclaims filings submitted to claims court in Faribault County on Feb. 3, 2023, Carnahan disputes claims made by Robert and Kathleen Kreklau, Hagedorn's stepfather and mother, and Tricia Lucas, Hagedorn's sister, regarding money they put toward Hagedorn's cancer treatment.

Additionally, Carnahan's separate filings against the Kreklaus and Lucas counterclaim that they allegedly defamed her while she was running to fill Hagedorn's seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The counterclaim stems from conciliation claims made by Lucas and the Kreklaus in May 2022. In those cases, the family members submitted requested that Carnahan return funds that were spent on Hagedorn's kidney cancer treatment at Envita Medical Centers in Scottsdale, Arizona. The family members said that they had loaned the money to Carnahan and Hagedorn.

On Dec. 28, 2022, a judge ruled in favor of the family members, ordering Carnahan to repay more than $20,000.


In Carnahan's filing, she disputes that the financial contributions from Hagedorn's family members were loans.

"Hagedorn asked his family for financial support to cover the medical treatment," the filing reads. "No promise of repayment whatsoever was made by Carnahan and Carnahan never even spoke to the Defendants about the financial gifts being given to Hagedorn."

In addition to dismissing the original complaints, the counterclaim also seeks $50,000 in damages plus fees for alleged defamation by the Kreklaus and Lucas.

Family members of late U.S. Rep. Jim Hagedorn sought the return of funds used for Hagedorn's cancer treatment. Former state GOP chair Jennifer Carnahan, Hagedorn's wife, plans to file a counterclaim.

The filing states that "Hagedorn's family actively opposed" Carnahan's congressional campaign and alleges that the family members "took several actions to impugn her and Hagedorn's marriage, defame her reputation and character."

"Less than a week before the primary election, they even publicized the fact that they had donated to one of her Republican primary opponents, whom Hagedorn explicitly said he did not want to carry his legacy forward," the filing reads.

The counterclaim alleges that actions taken by Lucas and the Kreklaus — such as filing their claims on May 16, 2022, roughly a week before the special primary election — were part of a "malicious attempt to ruin Carnahan's congressional campaign," per the filing.

A remote hearing for Carnahan's conciliation appeal is scheduled for March 7.

Dené K. Dryden is the Post Bulletin's health care reporter. She previously covered the Southeast Minnesota region for the Post Bulletin. Dené's a graduate of Kansas State University, where she cut her teeth working for the student newspaper, the Kansas State Collegian, and the student radio station, Wildcat 91.9. Readers can reach Dené at 507-281-7488 and
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