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Incumbents prevail in Beltrami County election

Commissioners Reed Olson, Tim Sumner and Jim Lucachick all won reelection. Olson's race had some interesting hours of indecision.

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Beltrami County Board of Commissioners, from left, Reed Olson, Richard Anderson, Craig Gaasvig, Tim Sumner and Jim Lucachick, will all remain on the board, as incumbents prevailed in Tuesday's general election. (Annalise Braught / Bemidji Pioneer)

BEMIDJI -- There will be no change to the makeup of the five-member Beltrami County Board of Commissioners after Tuesday’s election, as the incumbents went 3-0 to retain their seats.

But in one of the races, there was more than a little drama on election night and the following morning.

In District 2, Reed Olson had to wait until Wednesday afternoon to seal his victory over challenger Joe Vene. That’s because absentee votes from three Bemidji city wards were not included in the totals on the Secretary of State’s website until around noon on Wednesday. At one point, it appeared that Vene had won the race by a mere two votes. But once the final tally was posted, Olson won by 366 votes, 54.24% to 45.40%.

In Tuesday’s other races, incumbents Tim Sumner and Jim Lucachick won by comfortable margins. District 4 Commissioner Sumner defeated Danny Anderson 66.91% to 32.83%, and District 5 Commissioner Lucachick prevailed over Mike Bredon 65.60% to 32.83%.

It will be a fourth four-year term for Lucachick, the third for Sumner and the second for Olson. District 1 Commissioner Craig Gaasvig and District 3 Commissioner Richard Anderson were not up for reelection.

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Olson said the drama is his race against Vene had to be stressful for both candidates as they awaited the final tally.

“I don’t think that anyone made a mistake,” Olson said. “I think there was just a glitch, an honest computer glitch. As relieving as it was for me… imagine the experience if it went the other way.”

Olson, 44, will become County Board chair for 2021.

“It is really an honor to have won by a decent margin,” he said. “To run against someone as well known and storied as Joe, someone who has really worked for the community for so long, that was a huge win. It really reaffirms to me some of the tough decisions that we have had to make, over the last year specifically, but really over the four years.

"You know you can’t always make everyone happy and you know you’re going to upset some people with the votes that you make. But to see that the district still has faith in me reaffirms that I am doing the right thing, that I am a good fit for my district. And that the residents believe that I well represent them. That means absolutely the world to me.”

Sumner, 36, was pleased with the turnout in District 4, which had an increase of 679 votes over four years ago.

“Red Lake turned out in record numbers, at least at the 90 percentile,” Sumner said. “I was pleased with the turnout everywhere, like in Blackduck where I lost the town by four votes. That says a lot.

“I take this job very seriously,” he added, “and I feel fortunate to represent the entirety of District 4. I look out for everybody, whether we agree on issues or not. I kept an eye on a lot of area races. As commissioners we are non-partisan. I think it’s a good thing to keep an eye on who is winning locally because we have a job to go down to St. Paul and work with our area legislators.”

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Lucachick, 61, won by about the same margin as he did in 2016.

“It just appears that in my district, they vote 2 to 1 for me to continue,” Lucachick said. “I think I’m doing a good job. I said long ago that I was only going to do two terms, but I wanted somebody else to step up. I haven’t seen anybody else step up, and I’m not just going to back away and not do it. I think I’m honest and I’ve been very transparent with what’s going on. I have taken some heat; that comes with the job. But I’m willing to do it.”

Much of that heat came at the beginning of 2020 when the board voted 3-2 to prohibit refugees from resettling in the county. Lucachick joined Gaasvig and Anderson in voting for the motion. But Lucachick said Beltrami County has a lot of good things happening as he heads into his fourth term.

“The Red Lake child placement has now been put into the Red Lake Nation’s hands completely,” he said. “So we got that away from Beltrami County, which is a great step for both of us. We make that direct connection with Red Lake and Washington, D.C., and take Beltrami County taxpayers out of the role of picking up any shortfall. We’re hoping our northern Minnesota veterans home is going to go in the next bonding cycle at the feds. We’re working on our shoreland management, trying to find a good solution there without overburdening people.

“I’m looking forward to another four years,” Lucachick said. “A lot of people say with the state of politics, why would you want to do that? Well, my mom always said, ‘Put up or shut up,’ and I wasn’t able to shut up.”

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