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Funding for government lapses as short-term spending bill stalls in the Senate

Saxhaug, Persell leading bids for re-election

BEMIDJI – Redrawn district lines pitted incumbents against each other in each of State District 5’s races, among the most expensive and highest profile this fall.

At 2:35 a.m. today, not all precincts had been tabulated. Incomplete results showed Sen. Tom Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, leading Sen. John Carlson, R-Bemidji, by a 52.2 percent to 47.7 percent margin with 78 of 128 precincts reporting.

In the House District 5A race, Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji, had collected 56.6 percent of votes compared to 43.2 percent for Rep. Larry Howes, R-Walker, with 43 of 70 precincts reporting totals.

Legislators earn $31,140 per year, plus a per diem for living and travel expenses during the session. Senate seats are four-year terms while House seats are two-year terms.


Carlson, a businessman, former youth sports coach and community activist from Bemidji, said a good state senator is someone who sets aside partisan politics.

In the Republican’s first two-year term as senator, Carlson was the chief authored on 28 bills passed into law, the Minnesota Accountable Government Innovation and Collaboration Act, also known as the MAGIC Act.

He said the top issues facing District 5 residents are jobs and the economy. Other issues, such as affordable housing and delinquent mortgages, are directly tied to jobs and the economy.

Saxhaug, who was an independent insurance agent for 36 years in Grand Rapids, said he was running for office to “help create good-paying jobs in our natural resource-based economy in northern Minnesota.”

Saxhaug first took public office in 1993, when he was elected to the Grand Rapids City Council. He served on the Itasca County Board of Commissioners from 1996 to 2002, when he was elected to the Minnesota Senate.

The biggest issue facing legislators this coming session, he said, will be the state’s deficit.

Saxhaug said legislators must work to reinstate the Market Value Homestead Credit, which was replaced by the Market Value Homestead Exclusion last year, and bolster local government aid.


The House district includes parts of Beltrami, Cass and Itasca counties, including the communities of Bemidji, Cass Lake and Walker.

Persell, DFL-Bemidji, was first elected in 2008. During the campaign, he advocated for a balanced approach to the state budget, sound natural resources management, bringing new jobs to the area and restoring funding for K-12 and higher education.

In addition, Persell said he favored affordable health care for Minnesotans and quality care for elders.

Persell said his grassroots experience and 34 years working for Leech Lake Indian Reservation helps “give me a good sense of the district’s citizens and communities including needs and goals.”

Howes, a Republican from Walker, said his priorities in running for re-election were creating living wage jobs, lowering taxes, providing fair education funding, preserving Second Amendment rights, speaking out for life and encouraging the tourist industry.

In addition, Howes said he wants to preserve the beauty of northern Minnesota and give “the best possible life to northern Minnesota families.”

Howes said he has a reputation for working with members of both parties.

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