BEMIDJI -- Inspired to tackle a number of issues, Beltrami County Commissioner Reed Olson announced Wednesday, July 28 that he would run for the United States House of Representatives.

Olson, who's also the executive director for the Nameless Coalition for the Homeless and owner of the Wild Hare Bistro in downtown Bemidji, made the announcement in front of a crowd of about 75 under the Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues. In his announcement, Olson said he is seeking the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party's endorsement for the 7th Congressional District.

During his speech, Olson said if elected he would support bringing back more family-owned farms and move away from having corporate farms in the district. Olson also said he would support efforts to improve access to housing and child care, as well as higher wages and more quality jobs.

Beltrami County Commissioner Reed Olson announces his run for the U.S. House representing Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District on Wednesday, July 28, 2021, in front of a crowd of about 75 under the Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues in Bemidji. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)
Beltrami County Commissioner Reed Olson announces his run for the U.S. House representing Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District on Wednesday, July 28, 2021, in front of a crowd of about 75 under the Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox statues in Bemidji. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

"We are the richest country that this world has ever known, and we have people living in desperate poverty, and those are policy choices," Olson said. "We are the government, this is a participatory democracy. When we engage, we can impact change and pass the policies that will help us. When we disengage, the big guys in Wall Street win.

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"Right now, the top Democrats and Republicans are looking at Wall Street, not at Main Street. They're not looking at the people. We need to change that for our benefit, otherwise, we'll be getting poorer and poorer, and the rich will get wealthier and wealthier, and the power dynamic will get even worse."

As part of his campaign, Olson pledged to not take any money from political action committees or large corporations such as Enbridge.

Supporters hold campaign signs during Reed Olson’s speech announcing his run for the U.S. House representing Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District on Wednesday, July 28, 2021, in Paul Bunyan Park. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)
Supporters hold campaign signs during Reed Olson’s speech announcing his run for the U.S. House representing Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District on Wednesday, July 28, 2021, in Paul Bunyan Park. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

Olson, who first moved to Bemidji in 1994 and returned as a permanent resident in 2004, began his service in government in January 2013. At the beginning of 2013, Olson was selected by the Bemidji City Council to represent Ward 4.

In 2014, Olson ran unopposed to keep his seat on the council, earning 697 votes. In 2016, Olson chose to run for the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners.

In the election, for Beltrami County District 2, Olson defeated incumbent Joe Vene by a margin of 1,845-1,768. Because Olson won the county spot, the Ward 4 seat was vacated.

In May 2017, Patrick Plemel earned the War 4 seat in a special election, before also vacating it in December 2017 as he was leaving for a career opportunity in North Dakota. In January 2018, the council appointed for Bemidji Mayor Richard Lehmann to represent Ward 4 for the remainder of Olson's term.

Later in 2018, Emelie Rivera defeated Lehmann, 509-426, to become the current Ward 4 Council member.

Meanwhile, Olson sought the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party's endorsement in 2018 to run for the Minnesota House of Representatives in District 5A. John Persell later won the endorsement from the DFL later that year.

In 2020, Olson ran for reelection and once again faced Vene. Olson won the election with 2,247 votes to Vene's 1,884.

District 7 is represented by Congresswoman Michelle Fischbach, who won the seat in 2020 after serving in the Minnesota Senate. Fischbach also served as Minnesota's lieutenant governor from 2018-2019.

Reed Olson announces his run for the U.S. House representing Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District on Wednesday, July 28, 2021, in Paul Bunyan Park. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)
Reed Olson announces his run for the U.S. House representing Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District on Wednesday, July 28, 2021, in Paul Bunyan Park. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

Fischbach won the seat by defeating former Congressman Collin Peterson. After winning the seat in 1990, Peterson represented District 7 from 1991-2020.

Fischbach is the first Republican to represent the district since Arlan Stangeland, who was in office from 1977-1990. Since 1970, the DFL has represented the district for 36 years, while the GOP has held the seat for 13 years.

While the district chose a DFL candidate for decades, though, the area has a history of voting for the Republican in other races. In the 2012, 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, as well as the 2014 and 2018 gubernatorial races, the GOP candidate won 50% or more of the vote in the district.

So far, other announced DFL candidates include Ernest Joseph Oppegaard-Peltier, also of Bemidji, and Mark Lindquist of Moorhead. Travis Johnson of Crookston is also running for District 7 as a Libertarian.