Redistricting has thrown a wrench into the Bemidji area political scene. No matter what happens in the Nov. 6 election, the region will have less of a voice in the Minnesota Legislature.
The new boundaries pit incumbents against one another in two District 5 races and significantly changes the geography of District 2. It can be confusing for voters and it certainly is unfortunate for the Bemidji area as a whole.
First-term Republican Sen. John Carlson, a Bemidji businessman, currently represents District 4, which stretched from Bemidji in its northwest corner to just north of Brainerd on the south. Now Carlson is vying for the District 5 Senate seat against incumbent Democrat Tom Saxhaug of Grand Rapids, who has served two terms.
In House District 5A, incumbents Larry Howes and John Persell are running against one another. Howes, a Republican from Walker, has represented District 4B for 14 years. Persell, a Democrat from Bemidji, has served as District 4A representative since 2008.
From strictly a parochial point of view, Bemidjians would be well served if Carlson and Persell were elected. Carlson quickly established himself as a one of the top freshmen in the Senate, with a personality that at the very least invites conversations across the political aisle.
But Howes and Saxhaug have been effective legislators and certainly have not neglected Bemidji in the campaign. Howes also is chairman of the House Capital Investment Committee, which is a plus for northern Minnesota.
Come January, the area will not be as well represented in St. Paul, and that is unfortunate.