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Senate District 5: Saxhaug wins newly redrawn district

BEMIDJI – Redrawn district lines pitted incumbents against each other in the Senate District 5 race, with Tom Saxhaug beating out John Carlson in Tuesday’s election for the seat.

In complete but unofficial results, Saxhaug, DFL-Grand Rapids, received 21,301 votes – or 52.3 percent – to top Carlson, R-Bemidji, who collected 19,362 votes, or 47.6 percent.

“It was an extraordinary night if you were a Democrat,” Saxhaug said Wednesday after receiving a congratulatory call from Carlson earlier in the day.

“The real tragedy is northern Minnesota lost a senate district and two representatives” after district lines were redrawn earlier this year, Saxhaug said. “John is a good guy and a good senator.”

On the campaign trail, Saxhaug, a retired insurance agent who was first elected to the Legislature in 2002, said constituents voiced disproval about lawmakers handling of Minnesota’s budget.

Democrats took back the state Senate and House majorities Tuesday, and Saxhaug said election results are clear.

“I look at this as a mandate but it’s also an order by the people – we don’t want to see a deficit,” he said. “We’re going to have to go down there and find a solution.”

The solution, Saxhaug said, will be raising additional state revenues through tax reform and broadening the sales tax.

He also said Minnesotans were clear that they don’t favor legislating through the constitution as two proposed amendments helped draw out voters favoring Democrats. Both amendments failed to collect the “yes” votes needed to pass.

During the next session, Saxhaug said he hopes to land a leadership position, perhaps on the Senate Environment and Natural Resources committee, an assignment that would bode particularly well for the Bemidji and Grand Rapids areas.

Carlson, a businessman, former youth sports coach and community activist from Bemidji, was seeking his second term in St. Paul.

“I think I worked really hard and I thought I did a good job,” Carlson said Wednesday. “That’s up to the voters to decide.”

Carlson said running in four years isn’t something he’ll consider.

“I’m throwing my senate signs away,” Carlson said. “I won’t run for senate again.”

While disappointed with Tuesday’s outcome, Carlson said he was looking forward to hunting and spending time with his grandchildren.

“It might be fun to coach youth sports again,” he said.

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

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.

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