What the results from a seesaw political rivalry in Bemidji says about the 2020 election

What the results from a seesaw political rivalry in Bemidji says about the 2020 election

Like most of Minnesota in 2020, turnout increased in the Bemidji-area districts. In 2016, Republican Matt Bliss beat incumbent DFL state Rep. John Persell in a race for the Minnesota House, setting off a heated back-and-forth rivalry in the Bemidji area. After losing by more than 1,500 votes that cycle, Persell ran again in 2018, and won by a mere 11 votes. This year, Bliss challenged Persell another time, and Bliss took the seat back, winning by roughly the same margin he did in 2016. State Rep. John Persell It was a rematch to a rematch, something rare in legislative races. Even rarer is when those elections are competitive, flipping between the two major parties in Minnesota’s increasingly partisan political landscape. It also wasn’t very long ago when Bemidji and Grand Rapids, famously home to logging, paper and other natural resource and skilled-trade industries, were Democratic strongholds. Yet Republicans this year swept the region definitively, winning both state House seats and a state Senate race amid a campaign that, like many others in Minnesota, featured debates on gun policy, police reform and unrest after Minneapolis police killed George Floyd. Persell maintains his loss was the result of some unique factors: high turnout in a presidential year, Trump and a GOP campaign centered on “fear.” Republicans and political experts however, see something else in the results: a changing political tide in the area that may signal a broader shift away from the DFL. Republicans take the district Persell, who spent […]

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