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New campaign starts for House 4A

The primary election over, Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, can now focus on his Nov. 2 opponent -- Bemidji Mayor Richard Lehmann.

Persell, seeking a second House 4A term as the endorsed candidate, won the Democratic primary Tuesday with 64 percent of the vote, or 2,418 votes, over challenger Mark Thorson of Bemidji with 36 percent, or 1,350 votes.

Lehmann, unopposed in the Republican primary where he was the endorsed candidate, polled 1,572 votes.

"I felt pretty good door-knocking, what the people were saying," Persell said Wednesday evening. "But it's never over til it's over. I'm just happy to come out of it and have the opportunity to represent the District 4A again, that's for sure."

He plans to take some time off to perhaps do some fishing and do some ricing, but adds that his door-knocking will continue strong right up to Nov. 2. He has a parade Saturday in Remer, so that circuit continues also with the early primary.

"It's a matter now of going out and getting myself better known in the entire district instead of just the Bemidji area," Lehmann said Wednesday evening. "And even better known in the Bemidji area. I just need to work it, it's going to take a lot of work. I'm going to knock on a lot of doors and get my face in front of everybody I can and let them know my stances on the issues.

"We can't let up, we've got to keep going," he said.

Republicans had no major contests to decide in their primary, so Lehmann polled lightly. In the city of Bemidji, he got 24 Ward 1 votes, 43 in Ward 2, 77 in Ward 3, 58 in Ward 4 and 67 in Ward 5.

With a contested governor's race, more Democrats turned out, giving the DFL House 4A candidates more votes. In Bemidji, Persell captured all five city wards over Thorson, 57-25 in Ward 1, 100-46 in Ward 2, 161-122 in Ward 3, 112-68 in Ward 4 and 168-90 in Ward 5.

In Beltrami County balloting, Persell had 1,253 or 62 percent while Thorson ended with 760 votes or 38 percent.

Now the attention turns to the general election still more than 80 days away.

"He doesn't have a whole lot of record for me to draw out," Persell said of Lehmann, who is entering his first partisan race after serving as a Bemidji City Council member and as mayor.

"I assume he's going to be running as an Emmer Republican and whatever Emmer's saying, that's what Richard Lehmann is going to be saying, as far as I'm concerned," Persell said.

Republicans on Tuesday nominated Rep. Tom Emmer, R-Delano, as their GOP gubernatorial candidate among token opposition.

"I'll be running on issues that got me elected the first time," the Bemidji Democrat said. "Looking out for children and elders for education, health care ... our environmental quality. Our tourism, our business development here, things I've had an opportunity to work on.

"We've been able to do some good," he added, citing Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Dan McElroy's comments last week in Bemidji that the last session "was extremely useful" for economic development.

Republican Lehmann tabs bloated government as his major issue. "Part of it is going to be looking at the programs that are perhaps not providing the best bang for the buck and saying how can we make them work better, more efficiently."

Government must be made more efficient, he said. He cited the effort under Go. Tim Pawlenty to combine several state departments under the Employment and Economic Development Department.

The current expansion of government "hasn't done us any good, it's just cost us more and we get into these fiscal issues like we're facing now," Lehmann said. "I'm not saying we can satisfy all of the fiscal issues by making government much, much more efficient, but that's a heck of a good place to start and the taxpayers are looking for that."

That one of the major differences between he and Persell, he said. "You just can keep throwing money at an issue and hope that it goes away. Drowning it in a sea of green isn't going to work.

"I don't necessarily think John is looking at the efficiencies in government as much as paying for programs," Lehmann added. "I'm not convinced that's happening in St. Paul. If it did, we wouldn't be in quite as deep an issue as we are."

The state faces an estimated $5.4 billion or more budget deficit for the next two-year cycle that begins July 1.

Thirty-eight percent of the state budget is for health and human services, he said, and it must go only to those who truly need it through no fault of their own. "We have to look at that and ask if this is the best thing we can do, how is this helping our business climate in our state, what is this going to do for our employment and getting people back to work."

Thorson during the campaign said he believed he was the most conservative candidate in the field, including Lehmann.

"I think he doesn't know me," Lehmann said. "I don't think I've done anything in the city that has been too liberal. I think the city has done very well -- we have to have a balanced budget by law, the city as does the state. We've made some cuts that I'm not happy about, but we have to look at that and we have to make those cuts.

"If that's not conservative, then I don't know what his definition of conservative would be," Lehmann said.

Barring a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling, Nicole Beaulieu for Warriors for Justice plans a write-in campaign. Warriors for Justice Senate 4 candidate Greg Paquin had his case before the court Wednesday claiming that Beltrami County Auditor-Treasurer Kay Mack improperly excluded the two from the November ballot.