Johnson, Kiel and Burkel get wins in Minnesota's District 1

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Mark Johnson, R-East Grand Forks, incumbent senator in Minnesota District 1.

Republican Mark Johnson earned another term in the state Senate with a win over a challenger in Minnesota’s Senate District 1. Johnson won with 27,943 votes and Reed Perkins had 12,147.

Also in the district, incumbent Rep. Deb Kiel won big, and newcomer John Burkel earned a seat representing the district. Both are Republicans.

Johnson, a UND-educated lawyer who runs a law firm in East Grand Forks, was first elected to the senate in 2016. The Mentor, Minn., native campaigned on issues about an upcoming budget shortfall due to the coronavirus pandemic, that, for a time, shuttered businesses deemed nonessential across the state.

"It's looking pretty good so far," Johnson said shortly after 10 p.m. "It's good to see. I did a lot of work over the last four years. It looks like I'm going to earn another term down there so I'm pretty excited about that."

Prior to the election, Johnson had said that this year, more than other election cycles, showcases the difference between the rural and metro agendas.


Perkins is a science teacher from south of Minneapolis, near Farmington/Apple Valley.

Minnesota state senators serve a term of two years in election years that end in zero, allowing for the redistricting process that comes about from the United States Census.

Republicans held leads in the district's House races, too. In District 1A, Burkel, in his first run for office, had 15,147 votes while DFL opponent Connie Lindstrom has 5,663. District 1A does not have an incumbent, as Rep. Dan Fabian, a Republican from Roseau who has held the House seat for the past decade, is not running this year.

Burkel lives in Badger, where his family has raised turkeys for four generations. He serves on the Northern Pride Board of directors, the turkey processing plant in Thief River Falls, with the last five years as chairman.

Burkel ran on a platform of restoring economic growth to the district, as well as loosening government regulations, which he has said are burdensome. Lindstrom is from Austin, Minn. and lives in Hallock.

Lindstrom focused her campaign on funding rural governments and schools, which she said is necessary to keep those communities vital.

In House District 1B, incumbent Kiel-R, Crookston, won with 13,896 votes. Over the course of vote tallying she held a big lead over DFL candidate Cindy Ansbacher, who finished with 5,680 votes.

Kiel has held the House seat since 2010. She ran again because of her belief that it is important for citizens to get involved in governmental affairs. Kiel said there is a feeling of fear in the state, after demonstrations in Minneapolis earlier this year caused property damage. Kiel said she will support law enforcement, while protecting vulnerable people in the state.


Ansbacher is a retired nurse from Minneapolis, who became active in the Polk County DFL in 2015. She had hoped to bring her expertise in the medical field to the Legislature to address issues of accessibility in rural health care, as well as in child care. Affordable childcare, she said, exceeds the available space in rural Minnesota.

The Herald is not reporting vote totals by precincts that have reported their results so far. Absentee votes are expected to continue to come in over the next several days, which could impact the vote tallies in District 1 precincts.

Adam Kurtz is the community editor for the Grand Forks Herald. He covers higher education and other topics in Grand Forks County and the city.

Kurtz joined the Herald in July 2019. He covered business and county government topics before covering higher education and some military topics.

Tips and story ideas are welcome. Get in touch with him at, or DM at @ByAdamKurtz.

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