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DFL Chair touts progress under Biden, prep for 2022 in Bemidji visit

Ken Martin, chair of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party, visited Bemidji this week. He spoke with party members about accomplishments by Democrats since 2020 and what to expect in the 2022 election.

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BEMIDJI -- Minnesota went blue in the 2020 presidential election and the chair of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party Ken Martin is touting the results.

On Tuesday, as part of a trip through northern Minnesota, Martin stopped in Bemidji to meet with Beltrami County DFL leaders and other party members. In their stops, Martin said talks have been about how the last several months have gone since President Joe Biden was inaugurated.

"Elections have consequences, and the consequences can be good for people," Martin said. "We've seen that over the last 200 days with the Biden presidency, where two consequential pieces of legislation have passed. Even though the (coronavirus) Delta variant is spiking now, we're seeing a lot of recovery. People and communities are rebounding."

At the state level, Martin said the DFL had mixed results during the 2021 session.

"We have the only divided Legislature in the country," Martin said. "There's a lot more that could have been done, not only with a record surplus, but also the infusion of dollars from the American Rescue Plan. It could have been used in a great way, just an example, we did not pass a significant bonding bill this year."

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While speaking to the Pioneer, Martin also said he's talking with party leaders about the 2022 election.

"Over the last year, we haven't gotten out as much as we like because of COVID," Martin said. "But right now, we're working hard to get the message out and we're going to continue ramping up our operation, putting boots on the ground and opening up offices. We now have more than 12 offices around the state, almost all of them in Greater Minnesota."

Martin said with redistricting on the horizon based on the 2020 U.S. Census, there's uncertainty for the upcoming election.

"So for us, we're doing our part to invest early in offices and we're bringing on staff," Martin said. "We have the largest staff we've ever had in an off year, and we intentionally did that."

In the 2020 election, the DFL maintained control of the Minnesota House of Representatives, and Biden won the state's 10 electoral votes. However, results were mixed in Greater Minnesota, including locally.

In Bemidji, Biden earned the most votes, 3,787-3,056, while former President Donald Trump won Beltrami County with a count of 12,181-11,423.

At the legislative level, the GOP swept the area:

  • Incumbent District 5 Sen. Justin Eichorn, R-Grand Rapids, defeated former Bemidji Mayor Rita Albrecht, 25,139-16,687.
  • Former District 5A Rep. Matt Bliss, R-Pennington, defeated the DFL incumbent John Persell, 11,468-9,981.
  • Incumbent District 2 Sen. Paul Utke, R-Park Rapids, defeated White Earth Nation Secretary-Treasurer Leonard Alan Roy, 28,908-15,422.
  • Incumbent District 2A Rep. Matt Grossell, R-Clearbrook defeated Jeremiah Liend, a solar company employee, 13,995-8,391.

The Republican candidates also succeeded in the Bemidji area's two congressional districts. For Minnesota's 7th District, Republican Michelle Fischbach ousted Collin Peterson, 194,066-144,840.
Peterson had held the seat since 1991, making Fischbach the first Republican to represent the district since Arlan Stangeland, who held the district from 1977-1990.

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In Minnesota's 8th District, incumbent Republican Congressman Pete Stauber defeated DFL challenger Quinn Nystrom 223,432-147,853. Stauber won the seat in the 2018 election.

The 8th District was previously held by Rick Nolan, a Democrat. Nolan took the seat back from Republican Chip Cravaack, who won the seat in 2010 and was in office from 2011-2013.

Stauber and Cravaack were the first Republicans to hold the seat since the 1940s. From 1947-1974 it was represented by John Blatnik, and from 1975-2010 it was held by Jim Oberstar.

Next year, the ballots in November will have no statewide federal elections. U.S. Sens. Amy Klobuchar and Tina Smith won elections in 2018 and 2020, meaning their terms go through 2024 and 2026, respectively.

There are several statewide elections, though. Gov. Tim Walz succeeded Mark Dayton in 2018, keeping the position in the DFL's control. In that election, the DFL also won the offices of secretary of state, auditor and attorney general.

All of those terms end in 2022.

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