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Bliss unseats Persell in House 5A

BEMIDJI--Republican Matt Bliss defeated incumbent Democrat John Persell on Tuesday for the Minnesota House of Representatives District 5A race. [[{"type":"media","view_mode":"media_preview","fid":"2956323","attributes":{"alt":"Matt Bliss","class"...

BEMIDJI-Republican Matt Bliss defeated incumbent Democrat John Persell on Tuesday for the Minnesota House of Representatives District 5A race.

2956323+Bliss, Matt 2016 WEB.jpg

After all 71 precincts in the district reported, Bliss had garnered 10,326 votes while 8,818 residents voted for Persell, who was seeking his fifth term. Bliss, a 52-year-old resort owner from Pennington, said the legislative seat will be his first stint in public office. "I thought I had a good chance of winning it," Bliss said. "But to actually see it on the screen was a shock." Bliss said he spoke with Persell, 66, on Wednesday morning and characterized the longtime legislator as "gracious." Persell said he was surprised by the results, echoing many left-leaning voters' sentiments nationwide after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump convincingly won that office despite a host of polls predicting the opposite. "It is what it is, and we keep moving forward trying to do good," Persell said, adding that he's confident Bliss will for for the entirety of the district's residents. "That's all we can do as legislators, is work for the people who send us there." "I told him I'd be calling him for advice once in awhile," Bliss added. The race between the two highlighted health insurance in the district and the state. "MNsure is a failure," Bliss said at a candidate forum earlier this fall. "We need to explore alternatives to assist all Minnesotans find affordable health care." Bliss said then that he will support a recently-introduced GOP plan for the state's health exchange, such as more providing more tax deduction options. But in an interview the day after the election, he indicated that national politics may influence legislators' plans to revamp the statewide healthcare market. "Now, with President Trump and the two houses of Congress going Republican, that changes the plan," he said. "The long-term solution, we've got to wait to see what they're going to do." In the runup to Tuesday's votes, Persell said he disagreed with scrapping MNsure entirely. "Certainly the cost of health insurance is an issue that remains," he said. "We have pretty good coverage throughout the state, but there remains some issues with private coverage for individuals that we have to work on in St. Paul." Bliss said he'd also support a tax bill that remove military retirement benefits from tax rolls and exempts businesses from the "first" $100,000 of their value for state tax purposes. "That helped out the small guys," Bliss said. "There might be a guy in Bemidji that has a building that's $85,000, well, now he pays no state tax on that." Up next for the first-time legislator, though, is a gauntlet of orientations, caucuses, and a legislative retreat. The 90th Minnesota Legislature is scheduled to be sworn in Jan. 3 in St. Paul.BEMIDJI-Republican Matt Bliss defeated incumbent Democrat John Persell on Tuesday for the Minnesota House of Representatives District 5A race.

2956323+Bliss, Matt 2016 WEB.jpg

After all 71 precincts in the district reported, Bliss had garnered 10,326 votes while 8,818 residents voted for Persell, who was seeking his fifth term.Bliss, a 52-year-old resort owner from Pennington, said the legislative seat will be his first stint in public office."I thought I had a good chance of winning it," Bliss said. "But to actually see it on the screen was a shock."Bliss said he spoke with Persell, 66, on Wednesday morning and characterized the longtime legislator as "gracious."Persell said he was surprised by the results, echoing many left-leaning voters' sentiments nationwide after Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump convincingly won that office despite a host of polls predicting the opposite."It is what it is, and we keep moving forward trying to do good," Persell said, adding that he's confident Bliss will for for the entirety of the district's residents. "That's all we can do as legislators, is work for the people who send us there.""I told him I'd be calling him for advice once in awhile," Bliss added.The race between the two highlighted health insurance in the district and the state."MNsure is a failure," Bliss said at a candidate forum earlier this fall. "We need to explore alternatives to assist all Minnesotans find affordable health care."Bliss said then that he will support a recently-introduced GOP plan for the state's health exchange, such as more providing more tax deduction options.But in an interview the day after the election, he indicated that national politics may influence legislators' plans to revamp the statewide healthcare market."Now, with President Trump and the two houses of Congress going Republican, that changes the plan," he said. "The long-term solution, we've got to wait to see what they're going to do."In the runup to Tuesday's votes, Persell said he disagreed with scrapping MNsure entirely."Certainly the cost of health insurance is an issue that remains," he said. "We have pretty good coverage throughout the state, but there remains some issues with private coverage for individuals that we have to work on in St. Paul."Bliss said he'd also support a tax bill that remove military retirement benefits from tax rolls and exempts businesses from the "first" $100,000 of their value for state tax purposes."That helped out the small guys," Bliss said. "There might be a guy in Bemidji that has a building that's $85,000, well, now he pays no state tax on that."Up next for the first-time legislator, though, is a gauntlet of orientations, caucuses, and a legislative retreat.The 90th Minnesota Legislature is scheduled to be sworn in Jan. 3 in St. Paul.

Related Topics: ELECTION 2016
Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

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