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Eight was enough in 5A House race: Recount on the table in contest between Persell-Bliss

BEMIDJI—Eight votes.

When all was said and done Election Night, only eight votes separated the two candidates running for Minnesota House District 5A.

Democratic-Farmer-Labor candidate John Persell of Bemidji ended the night with a lead of 8,452-8,444 over Republican incumbent Rep. Matt Bliss. There were also seven write-in votes, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State's website,

Throughout the night, the lead shifted. Bliss, a 54-year-old Pennington resident and owner of Bliss Point Resort, was the frontrunner early on. Persell, a 68-year-old environmental policy analyst for the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe, was able to close the gaps, though, and eventually took the lead.

Because the difference is so small, Secretary of State office spokesperson Ben Petock said a publically funded recount is on the table.

"Minnesota no longer has automatic recounts, instead, we have publically funded and non-publicly funded recounts," Petock said. "In a state legislative race, with a margin of 0.5 percent or less, which this is, there could be a publically funded recount, as opposed to one of the candidates paying for it."

Before that can happen, though, the votes from election night will have to be certified by the state canvassing board on Nov. 27.

"We're still 20 days away from that," Petock said. "Once that happens, and if the results replicate what we see today, then if one of the candidates chooses, they may formally request a recount. That would be publically funded."

"With eight votes, anybody's vote could have been dropped somewhere, so we just want to make sure we count them all and make sure it's the right number," Bliss said Wednesday. "I'm still evaluating the results, but with eight votes, we have to ask for a recount at that level."

"It was a close, tough election," Persell said. "I certainly didn't know what to expect, but I'm happy to be ahead at this point and we'll just see how the recount proceeds. It was a good, hard-fought campaign."

Persell's best showing was in Beltrami County, where he outgained Bliss 5,537-5,090. Bliss, meanwhile, performed well in Cass County, leading Persell by 2,311-2,259. It was the same in Itasca County, with Bliss leading 953-678.

Precinct-wise, Persell received a major boost in Bemidji, finishing ahead of Bliss 2,990-2,132. Persell also won by a large margin in the city of Cass Lake, earning 195 votes to Bliss' 39.

In the surrounding, regional townships, Bliss picked up a lot of support, finishing ahead in Northern Township by a vote total of 1,140-827. Bliss also won more support in Bemidji Township, earning 727 votes to Persell's 574.

The two other regional house races for Minnesota District 2A and 2B, both went the way of the GOP Tuesday. Incumbent 2A Rep. Matt Grossell, R-Clearbrook defeated the DFL challenger Michael Northbird of Cass Lake, while 2B incumbent Steve Green, R-Fosston won over DFL candidate Karen Branden of Rochert.

Grossell a 53-year-old retired Clearwater County Sheriff's deputy earned 10,066 votes while 36-year-old Michael Northbird, an environmental program manager for the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, garnered 6,765.

A 58-year-old, self-employed contractor, Green won 10,443 votes Tuesday, while Branden, a 50-year-old sociology professor at Minnesota State University Moorhead and Ojibwe language instructor at White Earth Tribal Community College earned 6,657.