Politics checked at the door for 9th annual Minnesota delegation 'hotdish' competition

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WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Lawmakers in Washington traded in their gavels for spatulas Tuesday. The 9th Annual Minnesota Congressional Delegation Hotdish Competition pitted delegation offices against one another to see who could come up with the most creative and delicious Minnesota-style casserole.

“People love it,” said Senator Tina Smith (D-MN), leading the competition for the second year since taking over for Senator Al Franken (D-MN).

She says it is a chance to check politics at the door.

“It does remind everybody back home that we don’t spend all of our time arguing with each other. We actually have a really good time together,” said Smith.

Normally working across the aisle, Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R-MN) stood side-by-side the Democrat Smith, enjoying his first delegation hotdish contest. He says he is using this friendly competition to put his pork-rich district on display.

“We’re really excited to be here and to let people know about what Southern Minnesota’s all about,” said Hagedorn.

The judges for this competition do not require Senate confirmation. Smith takes it upon herself to hand pick them.

“It’s something that we just all have in common and brings us all together and it just puts a smile on peoples’ face,” said John Edman, director of Explore Minnesota and one of three judges this year.

Edman and his fellow judges chose Rep. Betty McCollum’s (D-MN) dish as the winner. But he says regardless of winning, everyone leaves happy after this annual event.

“We just love getting together,” said Edman. “We’re very welcoming to a lot of different cultures. And a lot of it is over lakes, and it’s over scenery, it’s outdoors, and of course, food.”