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Brainerd lakes area legislators react to redistricting

Ruud, Eichorn, Heintzeman will seek re-election; Poston will retire from politics

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MINNESOTA — State Sens. Carrie Ruud, R-Breezy Point, and Justin Eichhorn, R-Grand Rapids, both plan to run for the same Senate seat in November.

State Rep. John Poston, R-Lake Shore, had planned to seek a state Senate seat but announced Monday he will retire from the House after serving three two-year terms.

Rep. Josh Heintzeman, R-Nisswa, is all in to reclaim his House seat.

And so far one Republican newcomer - Dr. John Howe, a retired veterinarian from Grand Rapids - has thrown his hat in the ring for a House seat in part of the area Rep Dale Lueck, R-Aitkin, currently represents but won’t any longer starting in 2023.

It’s all a result of redistricting, which is done every 10 years after the U.S. Census is tabulated.

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The new legislative district boundaries announced Tuesday, Feb. 15, have caused a definite shakeup for some area politicians.

Carrie Ruud
Carrie Ruud
State Sen. Justin Eichorn, R-Grand Rapids
Justin Eichorn
Contributed / Nick Sherlock

New District 6

The new district lines mean that Senators Carrie Ruud and Justin Eichorn would share a district. Rudd calls her new area – which, in essence, removes Aitkin but adds Grand Rapids – the “perfect district” for her.

“I already represent almost 80% of the constituents in the district, and I have for 10 years now,” Ruud said. “In the rest of the new district that they put in, I represented most of that when I had Senate District 10, so I already know the area really well and I'm really invested in this community.”

Ruud did admit she hates to see the Aitkin community go to a different district, but the new district lines should make for better commutes for her.

In a press release, Eichorn said he intends to challenge Ruud for the District 6 senate seat in the next election.

“It has been an honor to serve the people of Northern Minnesota in the State Senate,” he said. “I look forward to having the opportunity to continue to serve some of the same constituents and getting to know all the new residents of Senate District 6.”

Ruud said she was disappointed to learn the two will face off against each other, but understands Eichorn’s decision and will not back down from hers.

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“I'm excited to run in this new district,” Ruud said. “It's perfect for me.”

One concern with the process of drawing new district lines, according to Ruud, is that the process seemed to have inadvertently targeted the women of the senate.

“Of the seven pairings of senators together, six of them were women senators, and we only represent maybe less than 30% of the senate,” Ruud said. “To have that (redistricting process) and to have 90% of the pairings be women was, I think, really kind of disconcerting.”

For now, the two will work to familiarize themselves with their new district lines, and prepare for another election this fall.

“As we look towards Nov. 8, I am looking forward to getting out in the communities, attending our small town festivals and speaking with voters about what matters most to them this year and how I can be a strong advocate for all of our families down in St. Paul for another four years,” Eichorn said in his press release.

Heintzeman, serving his fourth term after first being elected in 2014, currently represents House District 10A. While his new district will be 6B, the boundary didn’t change too much. It still includes Brainerd, Baxter, Breezy Point, Jenkins, Nisswa and Pequot Lakes, and area townships.

Josh Heintzeman
Josh Heintzeman

He will seek the Republican endorsement to be on the November ballot for House District 6B.

After eight years in the House, he has more internal responsibility within the caucus and said he’s next in line to chair the Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee if he wins re-election and his party claims the majority in the House.

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House District 6A will include Crosslake, Manhattan Beach, Fifty Lakes and Emily, and area townships - an area Lueck currently represents. With boundary changes, this district has no incumbent representative.

Redistricting put Lueck in the same House district as Rep. Ron Kresha, R-Little Falls. Lueck told the Brainerd Dispatch he will not seek reelection, and Kresha said he will run. However, the Dispatch reported Lueck did not rule out a possible state Senate run in the new District 10, which does not have an incumbent.

New District 5

When State Sen. Paul Gazelka, R-East Gull Lake, announced his bid for governor, he said he wouldn’t run again for his Senate seat.

Poston intended to seek the seat, until new boundaries put him in a district with an incumbent senator.

John Poston
John Poston

“His seat has kind of disappeared. And I don’t live in what currently is his Senate district anymore,” Poston said, noting his disappointment.

“For me, it put me in a position where I would have to run against Sen. (Paul) Utke, who is a good GOP senator who I have the utmost respect for,” he said.

Rather than run against Utke, R-Park Rapids, Poston said he’ll endorse Utke for re-election. He decided over the weekend to retire from politics and not seek the new House District 5A seat.

“Our area up here really hasn't experienced population shift or growth, so I don’t think there should have been as many changes as there were,” Poston said of redistricting. “But it becomes a political game.”

Poston’s new district wouldn’t include the cities of Staples and Wadena.

“It’s kind of hard because for seven years I’ve been building relationships in those communities. One day you have those relationships and the next day they’re going to be gone. That’s the hardest part of this,” he said.

The new House District 5A does include Pine River, Backus, Chickamaw Beach, Hackensack, Lake Shore and East Gull Lake, as well as area counties.

So far, Mike Paulus, Executive Director of the Cass County Economic Development Corporation has announced his candidacy for the new seat.

Dan Determan, sports writer/staff writer, may be reached at 218-855-5879 or dan.determan@pineandlakes.com . Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Dan.

Nancy Vogt, editor, may be reached at 218-855-5877 or nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Nancy.

Nancy Vogt is editor of the Pineandlakes Echo Journal, a weekly newspaper that covers eight communities in the Pequot Lakes-Pine River areas - from Nisswa to Hackensack and Pequot Lakes to Crosslake.

She started as editor of the Lake Country Echo in July 2006, and continued in that role when the Lake Country Echo and the Pine River Journal combined in September 2013 to become the Pineandlakes Echo Journal. She worked for the Brainerd Dispatch from 1992-2006 in various roles.

She covers Nisswa, Pequot Lakes, Lake Shore and Crosslake city councils, as well as writes feature stories, news stories and personal columns (Vogt's Notes). She also takes photos at community events.

Contact her at nancy.vogt@pineandlakes.com or 218-855-5877 with story ideas or questions. Be sure to leave a voicemail message!
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