Kupec, Green and Utke win lakes area Minnesota senate races; Bliss, Joy and Knudsen head to state house

The lakes area elected three new state senators and three house members to represent west-central Minnesota in St. Paul this January.

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DETROIT LAKES — The lakes area elected new legislators to represent west-central Minnesota in St. Paul this January.

Rob Kupec won the open Minnesota Senate District 4 seat against Republican challenger Dan Bohmer. Kupec received 52.5% (15,929 votes) to Bohmer's 46.8% (14,202 votes). Their race saw a large influx of negative television and web advertising during the last week of the campaign that focused on allegations of domestic abuse by Bohmer stemming from a recent divorce proceeding.

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Rob Kupec, Minnesota Senate District 4, DFL
Contributed / Rob Kupec

Bohmer won most rural precincts in Becker and Clay counties, and he performed about 25% better than Kupec in Detroit Lakes, but Kupec crushed Bohmer in Moorhead — winning one precinct there by 1,026 votes to 357 votes.

Kupec attended college at the State University of New York at Albany, earning a degree in atmospheric science. He would eventually become a meteorologist for WDAY before becoming chief meteorologist for KVRR. He has lived in Moorhead for over 20 years.

Steve Green, a current representative of House District 2B, won the race for Minnesota Senate District 2 against DFL challenger Alan Roy. Green received 60% (20,397 votes) to Roy's 40% (13,590 votes).


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Steve Green, Minnesota Senate District 2, GOP

Green will also be the first member of the White Earth Tribal Nation to represent the area in the Minnesota Senate. According to the Bemidji Pioneer , Green said he plans on largely focusing on forming connections within the legislature to work on problems, including: crime, economic development and drug use, collaboratively, something he stressed was particularly important going into the year as the minority party.

“My door will always be open to everybody in the district,” Green said. “Hopefully even if they didn’t vote for me, they’ll still feel comfortable coming in or calling and talking to me. I really look forward to meeting all of them.”

Paul Utke, incumbent state senator for district 2, won his bid to remain in the state senate after defeating DFL challenger A. John Peters in the Minnesota Senate District 5 race. Utke needed to run in a different district due to redistricting. Utke received 72.8% (28,731 votes) to Peter's 27% (10,687 votes).

Paul Utke, Minnesota Senate District 5, GOP
Contributed / Paul Utke

The new Senate District 5 includes Todd and Wadena counties along with portions of Becker, Cass, Hubbard and Morrison counties.

According to the Brainerd Dispatch , Utke spent 15 years working with Mack Truck dealers and 16 years operating a hardware and equipment rental store. He’s a certified legal videographer and a licensed insurance agent. He also served seven years on the Park Rapids City Council and was a board member for the Hubbard County Developmental Achievement Center, which provides specialized services to people with developmental disabilities and mental illness.

“This is a very good district for us, so it's just kind of all falling into place,” Utke said. “I was (the) chair of the Health and Human Services Committee and have some plans there on things we can and should do. At this point, entering the seventh year, (you) get involved in a lot of different things. So I guess my plate in bills I work on is quite a variety and I like it that way.”

In the Minnesota House, three new legislators will represent the area in St. Paul this January.

Republican Jim Joy, mayor of Hawley, Minn., defeated DFL challenger John Hest for the Minnesota House District 4B seat vacated by retiring DFL representative Paul Marquart. Joy received the lion's share of the district vote, 62.9% (10,780 votes), to Hest's 37% (6,348 votes).


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Jim Joy
Contributed/Hawley city website

Joy grew up and graduated from high school in Detroit Lakes, and has served as Hawley mayor since first being elected in 2016. He also served on the Hawley City Council. During his time as mayor, Joy helped boost the Hawley Police Department from two full-time to five full-time officers, including the chief and a school liaison officer.

Republican Matt Bliss, incumbent state house representative for district 5A, defeated DFL challenger Erika Bailey-Johnson in the race for Minnesota House District 2B, which includes the norther part of Becker County and the White Earth Tribal Nation. Bliss received 63.5% (11,310 votes) to Bailey-Johnson's 36.5% (6,505 votes).

According to the Bemidji Pioneer , Bliss said that he never takes an election for granted and that he was watching the results closely as they came in.

Rep. Matt Bliss
Matt Bliss, Minnesota House District 2B, GOP

“Anytime you’re in an election you’re unsure of how the race is going to go, so you’re always apprehensive at the beginning of the night,” Bliss shared. “Once I saw the first results coming in and I saw the trends coming my way, I was a little bit more comfortable.”

Bliss also owns and operates Bliss Point Resort on Kitchi Lake, near Pennington, Minn.

On the eastern side of Becker County, Republican Krista Knudsen defeated DFL challenger Brian Hobson in the race for Minnesota House District 5A. Knudsen received 70.5% (14,735 votes) to Hobson's 29.5% (6,159 votes).

Krista Knudsen, Minnesota House District 5A, GOP
Contributed / Krista Knudsen

Knudsen is a small business owner, a mother of four and the mayor of Lake Shore. Prior to being mayor, she served on the City Council for eight years, according to the Brainerd Dispatch .

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