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Elected officials and candidates speak at annual Beltrami County Republican banquet

Stewart Mills

BEMIDJI—A legislative session and election are coming up for the GOP in 2016, and the Beltrami County Republicans are wasting no time in building excitement.

On Thursday, members of the Beltrami County Republicans met for their annual banquet in Bemidji, an event that has taken place every year since 2010 and averages about 100 people in attendance.

This year's event included multiple speakers, starting off with 2014 Republican Congressional Candidate Stewart Mills, who was defeated in a race against incumbent Democrat Rep. Rick Nolan for Minnesota's 8th District.

During his speech to the Beltrami County crowd, Mills thanked those who supported him in 2014.

"During the last election cycle we came so incredibly close," Mills said. "Even though election night was bittersweet, my experience running for Congress was one that left me ultimately richer. It gave me an appreciation not only of our part of Minnesota, but also the entire nation.

"We do have a magnificent America, we do have a country we can be proud of," Mills added. "But we need to make sure we have leadership in Washington D.C. that is going to keep America great. That is going to stand up for our value systems, not just here domestically, but also abroad."

In his remarks Thursday, Mills added he has not decided on whether he will run for office again in the 2016 election.

"I'm not exactly sure what the next election cycle holds for me," Mills said. "But we do, in whatever capacity, have to stand up for our magnificent America."

Following Mills at the event was Matt Bliss, who announced his candidacy for the Minnesota District 5A House seat on Aug. 7.

Bliss, who ran an unsuccessful campaign in the 2014 election for a seat on the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners, described himself at the banquet as a "pro-life conservative" who would like to see Planned Parenthood in Minnesota defunded completely.

Bliss added in his speech that he prefers "reasonably sized governments."

"We need some reasonable regulations and reasonable taxes," Bliss said. "But I think the term reasonable has left our state legislature a long time ago."

Other speakers at Thursday's event included Minnesota State Rep. Steve Green, R, District 2B; Minnesota Senate Minority Leader David Hann; House Majority Whip Dan Fabian and Minnesota RNC Committeewoman Janet Beihoffer.

Beltrami County Republicans Chairman Ken Cobb said the speakers and the banquet as a whole are ways to maintain energy with the party.

"It's to keep the Republican brand and Republican enthusiasm high in town," Cobb said. "It's easy if you're not doing anything to fall out of the loop.

"I think it's just important to have an annual event to keep people engaged in the party," Cobb added. "We want a reason for people to be excited. We have an important election next year with an opportunity to win some big races both nationally and in the state of Minnesota."

Matthew Liedke

Matthew Liedke is the city, county and state government reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He also covers business, politics and financial news.

(218) 333-9791
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