Political events take shape to inform residents ahead of election

Minnesota's primary will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 11.

BEMIDJI -- The next two months will be busy for candidates with organizations and media outlets putting together forum opportunities.

One event right around the corner is a forum with Beltrami County Commissioners candidates set for 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Sept. 9. Organized by the nonpartisan Beltrami County Farm Bureau, the event will take place at the Beltrami County Fairgrounds with Paul Bunyan Broadcasting's Todd Haugen as the moderator.

"Voters need to be informed of how each candidate stands on issues impacting Beltrami County," said John Gilbertson Jr., Beltrami County Farm Bureau president in a recent release. "The forum is structured in a way that each candidate will be offered an opportunity to share their position statements and respond to prepared questions and those submitted from the audience."

Next month, more candidate events are scheduled, including a series of debates that have taken place for two decades. During the week of Oct. 5-9, Lakeland PBS, in partnership with KAXE Radio and the Pioneer, will host its "Debate Night" programming.

While the series is usually broadcast from Lakeland's studio in Bemidji, this year it will be held remotely.


"We had a few committee meetings to talk it through and we came to the conclusion that in order to be safe, that we should do this remotely," Lakeland PBS General Manager Bill Sanford said. "We knew it wouldn't impact the information negatively, so we thought let's go with it."

The schedule for debate night is:

  • 7 p.m. on Oct. 5: A debate between Minnesota House District 2B Rep. Steve Green, R-Park Rapids and the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party challenger David Suby.
  • 8 p.m. on Oct. 5: Minnesota District 2 Sen. Paul Utke, R-Park Rapids, will debate DFL opponent Leonard Alan Roy.
  • 9 p.m. on Oct. 5: Minnesota House District 2A Rep. Matthew Grossell, R-Clearbrook, will debate DFL candidate Jeremiah Liend
  • 7 p.m. on Oct. 6: Minnesota District 5B candidates, including Joe Abeyta of the DFL and Republican Spencer Igo will debate. Incumbent Sandy Layman is not seeking a third term.
  • 8 p.m. on Oct. 6: Minnesota Senate District 5 Sen. Justin Eichorn, R-Grand Rapids, and DFL candidate Rita Albrecht will debate.
  • 9 p.m. Oct. 6: Minnesota House District 5A Rep. John Persell, DFL-Bemidji and former GOP representative Matt Bliss will debate.
  • Later that week, debates for other districts in north-central Minnesota will take place during "Debate Night."

"It's going to be done basically the same as it's been in the past," Sanford said. "We'll use Zoom and we'll record it and that will be the bulk of the debate, while we produce the opening and the close."
According to Sanford, the station has become accustomed to remote programming, with Lakeland News reporters conducting interviews digitally, as well as the series "Lakeland Currents" being produced remotely.

Another digital effort to provide details to residents is a social media series from the Bemidji Area for an Informed Electorate. While the organization usually holds in-person forums, this year, they've opted for an online approach. The CIE will post videos of candidates answering questions on their Facebook page . The candidates will be for races at the city of Bemidji and Beltrami County levels.

Forums that will take place in person are scheduled for Oct. 13 and 15, with the Bemidji League of Women Voters as the organizers. Both events are scheduled for 6 p.m. and will be held at 317 Fourth St. NW. City candidates will speak on Oct. 13 and county hopefuls will make their case on Oct. 15.

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