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Area Senate, House districts races among state’s costliest

BEMIDJI – Incumbents pitted against each other in the state’s Senate District 5 race have spent nearly $100,000 in a bid to represent a geographical area spanning from Grand Rapids to Bemidji.

Campaign finance reports filed 10 business days before the Nov. 6 general election show John Carlson, R-Bemidji, and Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, have easily surpassed the amount the two combined to spend in 2010 when they were in adjacent districts.

This year, Carlson and Saxhaug reported spending $96,970 for campaign-related expenses so far compared to $66,655 combined for the entire campaign two years ago, according to paperwork filed with the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board.

The figures do not include non-campaign disbursements.

Earlier this year, a judicial panel redrew district boundaries based on U.S. Census population numbers, pitting the popular incumbents against one another this fall.

State law requires candidates to file full campaign finance reports 10 business days before the general election. Full reports for the year are due next Jan. 31, although candidates also must submit paperwork within 24 hours for larger campaign contributions during the days leading up to Election Day., an online newspaper, compared campaign finances throughout the state.

In its comparison, MinnPost reported Saxhaug and Carlson have spent $98,951 this year – including non-campaign disbursements as expenses – to rank as the third costliest campaigns thus far among the state’s 67 Senate districts.

On the House side, both legislative districts including Bemidji are among the nine most expensive in Minnesota.

MinnPost’s ranking shows House District 2A as the fourth most expensive. Challenger Roger Erickson, DFL-Baudette, has spent $32,387 in a bid to defeat Rep. Dave Hancock, R-Bemidji, who has spent $24,489.

Another battle of incumbents featuring Larry Howes, R-Walker, and John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, ranks ninth most expensive among the state’s 134 House districts.

In House District 5A, Persell spent $15,592 through Oct. 22, Howes campaign has spent $26,191. The two have spent more than $42,000 when all disbursements are included.

Neighboring House District 5B, which includes Deer River, Remer and Grand Rapids, also pits incumbents facing a costly campaign against each other. Total expenses for Tom Anzelc, DFL-Balsam Township, and Carolyn McElfatrick, R-Deer River, rank sixth among House races with more than $47,500 in total expenditures, according to MinnPost.

Here’s a closer look at finances for legislative races in the Northwoods.

Senate 5

Saxhaug reported $39,095 in campaign receipts so far in 2012 while spending $57,862 – nearly three times what he spent in 2010.

Carlson had $45,048 in receipts as of Oct. 22, and spent $29,108.

House 5A

Howes reported $28,530 in receipts and $26,191 in campaign expenses. Persell has collected $21,745 while spending $15,592.

Senate 2

Sen. Rod Skoe, DFL-Clearbrook, has garnered $28,112 in receipts and spent $4,351. His opponent, Dennis Moser, R-Clearbrook, received $16,292 and spent $11,798.

The race features a rematch from 2010, when the candidates spent significantly more. Skoe raised $33,505 and spent $23,025 two years ago; Moser collected $16,875 and spent $21,357.

House 2A

In this incumbent matchup, Howes has already spent about $7,000 more this year compared to all of 2010. Persell, meanwhile, had spent $9,000 less.

House 2B

Brita Sailer, a former DFL legislator from Park Rapids who lost to Hancock in 2010, is running for office again. She reported $35,200 in receipts this year and $14,252 in campaign expenses.

Steve Green, R-Fosston, has collected $10,494 so far this year while compiling $10,333 in campaign expenses. He also filed two mandatory reports since the Oct. 22 deadline, but the details were not available online Thursday.

Ninth Judicial District

Incumbent John Melbye reported receiving no campaign financing this year. He had spent $8,753 as of Oct. 22.

Challenger Diana Sweeney, who recently loaned her campaign $4,450, has collected $29,004. By the deadline, she garnered $22,374 in campaign expenses.

Steve Wagner

Grand Forks Herald Editor Steve Wagner can be reached at 701.780.1104 and He joined the Herald in April 2013, and previously worked as editor at the Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer and in several roles -- including news director, investigative reporter and crime reporter - at The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. His reporting experience includes coverage of Dru Sjodin's disappearance and the federal death penalty case for her murderer, Alfonso Rodriguez Jr., along with several investigative projects. In his spare time, Wagner is an avid runner and occasionally writes about his experiences on his blog, Addicted to Running.

(701) 780-1104