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Rep. Matt Bliss faces off against Erika Bailey-Johnson for Minnesota House 2B seat

Republican incumbent Matt Bliss is hoping to retain his 2B seat in the Minnesota House 2B against DFL challenger Erika Bailey-Johnson in the Nov. 8 general election.

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Republican Matt Bliss, left, is facing off against DFL challenger Erika Bailey-Johnson for the Minnesota House 2B seat.
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BEMIDJI — Republican Matt Bliss is facing off against Democratic-Farmer-Labor party challenger Erika Bailey-Johnson for the Minnesota House 2B seat in the Nov. 8 general election.

Matt Bliss

Matt Bliss is the current representative for Minnesota House Seat 5A, but is running for 2B following redistricting. He is running for a third term and is a small business owner in northern Minnesota.

One of Bliss’ primary reasons for running is to continue the work that he’s been involved in at the legislature.

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Matt Bliss
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“There were some projects that didn’t get done because (Republicans) were in the minority,” Bliss explained, citing tax cuts, bills supporting law enforcement and mining projects. “There was just a lot of stuff that I felt passionate about that we need to get done.”

Improving the economy will be one of his initial focuses in the legislature, particularly in light of inflation and rising fuel prices.

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“We’ve got rising inflation. Gas prices are through the roof. Heating bills this winter are going to be too much for a lot of people to handle,” Bliss said. “We need to get a grip on that.”

His main strategy to address this relates to supporting fossil fuels, noting that he believes the government should stop supporting companies that don’t support oil.

“We need to stop (financially supporting) companies who don’t invest in oil companies because they disagree with the carbon emissions,” Bliss said. “They’re using it as a political tool and that needs to stop. That will help lower the cost of oil.”

With this, Bliss did emphasize that he is not against clean energy and supports projects that work toward reducing carbon emissions, but that he won’t do so to the detriment of the economy.

“I think instead of destroying the American economy doing it, we need to put pressure on other countries,” he said, mentioning China as an example.

Bliss also plans to focus on public safety, namely through supporting law enforcement agencies and getting them the support that they need.

“We need to fund our police. We need to work with our local municipalities on ways to retain their officers,” he explained. “We also have to improve the whole way police are treated in our communities.”

Ultimately Bliss emphasized his past work as a legislator, and that he is not a career politician.

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“I’m running for my third term, but I’m not a career politician,” Bliss said. “I’m a very effective legislator, and I’m responsive to the community.”

Erika Bailey-Johnson

Erika Bailey-Johnson is the Sustainability Director at Bemidji State University and an enrolled member of Red Lake Nation.

“I think it’s the right time for me now, and for our community,” Bailey-Johnson shared of her motive for running. “I really want to do something about the divisive politics.”

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Erika Bailey-Johnson
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If elected, one of the biggest focuses for Bailey-Johnson would be education, making sure that it’s supported and that rural school districts like the ones in northern Minnesota get the funding that they need.

“I think that education is always a priority,” she said. “We need to really examine what is happening in schools and if it’s still relevant, and how we raise good citizens.”

Bailey-Johnson believes she already has one solution to make funding more equitable for rural school districts, namely changing the transportation funding formula to account for the distance that students have to travel. This change would benefit geographically larger districts like those in northern Minnesota.

“I’d love to work on that right away. I think it would have a big positive impact on our rural schools,” Bailey-Johnson said.

Another focus of hers is boosting the economy through supporting sustainability efforts and clean energy.

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“I think we need to really be focusing on becoming more sustainable communities,” she explained. “To me, that really means supporting local businesses and local agriculture.”

In addition to supporting local economies and entrepreneurs, Bailey-Johnson also discussed the need to lessen society’s dependence on fossil fuels.

“We have to consider all of the full costs of everything, from production and extraction of raw materials, all the way through the life cycle,” she detailed. “What are the impacts, not just the immediate financial impacts, but the long-term financial impacts, and impacts on ourselves and future generations?”

Bailey-Johnson believes that her experience and track record of finding solutions to complex issues with different groups of people have prepared her for working in the state legislature, and emphasized that she would not approach things in a partisan manner.

“I am not super Democrat or super Republican. I really believe in the value of pulling all the different people together to get work done,” she explained. “I’ve been really good at that, I have a track record of getting work done on really hard, controversial topics.”

Nicole Ronchetti is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on local government and community health.
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