The outgoing senator loses his endorsement to a newcomer; Lake Shore Mayor Gains Party Support – Brainerd Dispatch


VERNDALE — In two rounds of delegate voting on Saturday, April 2, political newcomer Bret Bussman won support from Republicans in Senate District 5 over current Senator Paul Utke, R-Park Rapids.

Lake Shore Mayor Krista Knudsen, who beat Cass County Economic Development Corp. Executive Director Mike Paulus in pursuit of GOP approval for House District 5A, also got support.

Bussman said he was a little surprised to win out over an established Republican state senator, but saw it as recognition of his message resonating with party members. He also noted that he had attended seven county conventions to meet with potential voters, while saying he knew Utke had attended one.

“It was a big step that the party likes what I’m saying and that they’re going to support me,” Bussman said in a phone interview Monday. “…It was pretty overwhelming to see how they showed me their support. It was a humbling and humbling experience.

In his campaign announcement, Bussman said he supports the Bill of Rights; accurate and verifiable elections, including voter identification, paper ballots, no postal voting, no use of electronic voting, no collection of ballots, and a five-year prison sentence for electoral fraud; a balanced budget; term limits; school vouchers of choice; and tax relief for the elderly.

Bussman said his motivation to run for office stems from his military service.

“I was sworn in 1981 that I would support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Well, now the domestic enemies are here, and we must fight them,” Bussman said.

Utke, first elected in 2016 and currently representing District 2, said his loss reflected a wave of activism at local political conventions. The new District 5 covers very different territory from his current district, he said, and with the legislature in session, he hasn’t had time in the weeks since the redistricting to make meaningful connections before the vote of approval.

Utke pointed to Bussman’s alignment with Action4Liberty, a Minnesota-based organization that challenges right-wing Republican candidates with a focus on Governor Tim Walz’s vaccination mandates and emergency powers. The group has pushed caucus participation as part of its strategy, holding trainings to encourage people to become delegates and submitting resolutions available on the Action4Liberty website.

“They’re a supposedly conservative bunch, but all they do is attack conservative Republicans rather than, you know – if they’re conservative and believe what they’re saying, you’d think they’d help us to get us elected against the Democrats…but they don’t,” Utke said by phone Monday. “…So it’s a small radical group that we unfortunately have to deal with.

Utke said he will run a primary campaign against Bussman in August and hopes to appeal to those who might feel disenfranchised or ignored and drawn to Action4Liberty-aligned candidates.

“Some people don’t accept the process. I mean, we have to do things legally and by the rules,” Utke said “… The last two years have been tough. This COVID has been tough on a lot of people, there’s a lot of frustration out there. And I fully understand that. I was as frustrated as anyone with what’s going on. But they have to realize that in government we are a branch of the Senate, and we have done a lot of things. …

“But if the House doesn’t even take it to the ground, it certainly won’t pass because both the House and the Senate have to pass a bill and the governor has to sign it before it becomes law.”

Following the announced retirement of State Rep. John Poston, R-Lake Shore, at the end of his term, two new faces jumped into the ring in pursuit of GOP endorsement for House District 5A.

Knudsen, Lake Shore mayor and restaurant owner, said in her campaign ad that she would advocate for the Constitution, protection of the unborn child, medical freedom, tax relief, gun rights on fire and even more if elected. Knudsen had the support of Poston, also a former mayor of Lake Shore.

“I’m honored to receive the Republican endorsement for MN House District 5A!” a Facebook post on Knudsen’s campaign page said. “Meeting the great people in our district has been INCREDIBLE! Earning their trust and support… HUMBLISHING! I look forward to the next steps in this process and look forward to fighting for our way of life in St. Paul! »

Knudsen did not return a request for comment on Monday.

Paulus, who in addition to his leadership role with Cass County Economic Development Corp. is also a business consultant with the North Central Region Small Business Development Center, noted that the political process was new to him and his family in an emailed statement.

“I am a competitor and I love to compete. It was a game I had never played before and had to learn the rules as I went. I had no experienced political advisers in my corner, and in hindsight I realize some missteps I made along the way,” Paulus wrote.

“While I wish the outcome was different, my passion for helping businesses in our region has touched a lot of people. To my supporters, I say thank you for your trust and love, and trust me that I will work every day to continue to improve our state even if I am not your representative.

Paulus said he considers the candidacy again a real possibility.

CHELSEY PERKINS, Community Editor, can be reached at 218-855-5874 or

[email protected]

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