Two Republican challengers win in Grand Forks' District 43; incumbents cruise in Minn. District 1 and ND's 20
Recount coming for District 43's House race.
GRAND FORKS — Two Republican challengers and an incumbent Democrat earned wins in District 43 on Tuesday and will represent Grand Forks in the Legislature, although a close finish in the House race will require a recount.
In the Senate race, Republican Jeff Barta had 53% of the votes to beat incumbent JoNell Bakke, a Democrat. In the House race, newcomer Eric J. Murphy, a Republican, had 1,759 votes and incumbent Zachary Ista, a Democrat, had 1,716 votes, both earning the opportunity to represent the district in the Legislature. Incumbent Democrat Mary Adams finished just three votes behind, at 1,713, while Republican Ethan Harsell had 1,582 votes. However, the close finish in the House race automatically triggers a recount.
Barta received 1,963 votes while Bakke had 1,737 – a difference of 232 votes.
“I’m very excited to take this next step forward. It’s just one more step in the process of serving the community,” Barta said. “I knew it was a challenge going in and that it would be a tight race. And as with any race, you always respect your opponent.”
Education and mental health services probably will be among his top legislative priorities, he said.
“With those being the two largest line items within the state budget, we know they are issues that resonate with people and are important to people,” he said. “With that, we want to make sure the dollars spent in those areas are being successful. If that’s the largest part of our budget, we want to make sure we have programs that are producing results.”
Tuesday’s finish roughly mirrors the tight races seen in the district in 2018, when Bakke earned election into the Senate with 52.6% of the votes and Adams and Democrat Matt Eidson earning House wins, despite all four House candidates getting between 2,590 and 2,113 votes.
Also in the Grand Forks region, incumbents in District 20 earned resounding victories on Tuesday. In Minnesota’s District 1, votes were still being counted as this report was published.
In District 20, which encompasses rural areas west and south of Grand Forks, incumbent Sen. Randy Lemm, R-Hillsboro, had 4,252 votes to the 1,716 votes of challenger Paul Hanson, a Democrat from Mayville.
In the District 20 House race, Republican incumbents Mike Beltz and Jared Hagert both earned reelection. Hagert, of Emerado, had 3,648 votes and Beltz, of Hillsboro, had 3,558. Their challengers were Thompson Democrat Tommy Passa, who had 1,407 votes, and Hillsboro independent Cathy “Kit” Brenan, who had 1,263 votes.
Due to redistricting, Lemm served only two years before this election. He said he’s looking forward to continuing to serve the district after that abbreviated term.
“I’ve served half of it, and now I can finish out the second half,” said Lemm, adding that he appreciates the support of voters.
Lemm said having all three incumbents win is a benefit to the district, since it allows an experienced team to return to Bismarck.
“We work well together,” he said, adding that he wants to continue to focus on ag and education issues, while also focusing on flooding concerns that continue to arise in the northern Red River Valley.
In the short-term, however, he has a more personal goal.
“I’m glad this part (of the campaign) is over,” said Lemm, a farmer who was perhaps watching the weather Tuesday as much as the election results. “Now I need one more good day to finish combining corn.”
In Minnesota, District 1 incumbents eased to wins. John Burkel, R-Badger, was reelected to his 1A House seat by getting 13,573 votes to the 4,217 votes of James Scevelle, DFL-Thief River Falls, or 76% to 24%. In 1B, incumbent Rep. Debra Kiel, R-Crookston, received 10,880 votes, or 71%, and Cynthia Ansbacher, DFL-Crookston, had 4,401 votes.
Republican Sen. Mark Johnson, who was unopposed on Tuesday, said he’s excited to go back to St. Paul to represent District 1, situated in extreme northwest Minnesota.
“It truly is an honor to be elected again,” Johnson said. “It’s a bit of a surprise this year to not have a competitor, but to me, I think that might be a good thing – people might feel I’m doing a good job in the district, representing the people of the district. … That’s exciting, but we have so much work to do.”
Johnson, speaking to the Herald before final results were tallied in Minnesota’s statewide elections, said he was concerned about which party would emerge in control. With races to determine the next governor, attorney general and secretary of state – along with a number of state House and Senate races – there were a lot of unknowns heading into Tuesday.
“We have a surplus of $9.25 billion and we have got to start looking at things like tax policy and spending growth in the state,” he said. “A lot of that is coming from our Health and Human Services sector, and within our education system a lot of growth in the budget is coming there. So what are we going to do to make sure that’s sustainable? That really depends on who is running the agencies and who is appointing those folks from the governor’s office.”
But, he said, no matter what happens in the statewide races, he’s pleased to keep the District 1 representation intact, after incumbents Kiel and Burkel regained their House seats.
“It’s a big deal,” he said of maintaining consistency. “When we have district issues, to be able to share bills back and forth … to get a solid roadmap on how we’re going to get things out of the Legislature. … I think for our area, it’s a good thing to have a very clean path for legislation that affects our area. I’m really excited to be able to do that again with that team.”
In North Dakota's District 17 — another Grand Forks district — three candidates ran unopposed. Mark Sanford had 3,896 votes and Landon Bahl had 2,850 votes in the House race and Jonathan Sickler had 4,022 votes in the Senate race. All three are Republicans.