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Nisswa voters overwhelmingly in Brekken's camp, ousting incumbent. Brekken loses to Thiede in most precincts, but wins election.

Bill Brekken (left) and incumbent Paul Thiede, Crow Wing County commissioner candidates for District 2, sit side by side at the Oct. 2 candidate forum at the land services building in Brainerd. The forum was moderated by Wayne Holtmeyer of the League of Women Voters. Erin Bormett / Echo Journal file photo1 / 2
A billboard along northbound Highway 371 encouraging voters to re-elect Crow Wing County Commissioner Paul Thiede of Pequot Lakes expresses gratitude Thursday, Nov. 8, after challenger and political novice Bill Brekken of Brainerd defeated Thiede Tuesday. Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch2 / 2

The numbers don't lie, but they can be confusing. Bill Brekken will, however, take the win against Paul Thiede in the Tuesday, Nov. 6, general election.

In Brekken's first run at public office, the First Assessment District candidate finished second to the incumbent in the District 2 race for Crow Wing County Commissioner in most of its precincts.

"It's hard to beat the incumbent," Brekken said in a phone interview Thursday. "Nisswa really helped to put me over the top, but the other thing was that we did a lot of door-knocking, and what happened was, in the other precincts, we didn't lose ground that much."

The 67-year-old RE/MAX associate unseated Board Chairman Paul Thiede, 71, of Pequot Lakes. Brekken received 3,705 votes compared to the 3,620 votes cast for Thiede—a slim margin of victory by 85 votes.

A closer look at the vote totals in the 13 precincts in the district tells a seemingly different story. Brekken lost to Thiede in eight of the precincts—or the majority of the district's precincts.

District 2 includes the cities of Crosslake, Jenkins, Pequot Lakes, Breezy Point and Nisswa. Brekken said he knocked on more than 2,000 doors in the district as part of his campaign in addition to polling and calling district voters. He won in the Red Precinct of the Unorganized Territory where he lives, receiving 87 more votes than Thiede.

"It's been said that who knocks on the most doors wins—and that we did do throughout the whole district," Brekken said while chuckling.

In the Jenkins and Jenkins Township area where Thiede resides, more votes were cast for Thiede than Brekken. There were 73 votes for the incumbent in the city compared to 66 for the challenger, and 142 votes went to Thiede compared to 84 votes for Brekken in the township.

Support for Brekken was greatest in the precinct of Nisswa, where he received 703 votes—the most votes he received in any precinct—and more than the 288 votes for Thiede in Nisswa.

Almost 2,000 people live in Nisswa, according to the last census, of which 1,447 were registered voters, according to the Minnesota Secretary of State. Brekken said he lives south of Nisswa on Highway 371.

"I think what it is, is that I probably have—and I hate to say it—but better name recognition because I've worked in Nisswa and Brainerd," Brekken said after the election.

Brekken lost, however, in the two Crosslake precincts, but not by much; in Precinct 1, it was a difference of a single vote and in Precinct 2, the loss was by 49 votes.

"We have a conservative county—there's no question about that—and I'm probably a little bit more moderate. That might have made a difference in the race, but I don't know that," Brekken said election night.

Comparing individual precincts, Thiede received the most of his votes in Breezy Point with 649, compared to 589 votes cast for Brekken in that precinct. In Gail Lake Township and Jenkins, Thiede lost by 5 votes with 14 total and won by 7 votes with 73 total, respectively.

According to the Minnesota Secretary of State's unofficial vote tallies, Thiede received 49.37 percent of the votes for the nonpartisan office while Brekken received 50.53 percent of the total votes cast in District 2.

The county canvass board meets Tuesday in Brainerd to review and certify the election results. If necessary, the canvassing board oversees a recount, according to the Secretary of State.

A losing candidate may request a recount “if the difference between the votes cast for that candidate and for a winning candidate for nomination or election is less than one-half of 1 percent, and the total number of votes cast for the nomination or election of all candidates is more than 400 but less than 50,000,” according to a Minnesota statute.

There was a write-in vote for a candidate other than Brekken or Thiede in Breezy Point, Pequot Lakes and in Crosslake, Precinct 2, where Thiede won. Two votes were cast for a write-in candidate in Ideal Township and 3 in Nisswa; Brekken lost in that township and won in Nisswa.

"I'm really proud of the campaign that we ran, and I think I wouldn't have changed anything differently," Brekken said. "I think we covered all the bases and ran a very, very good campaign."

Thiede served several terms as county commissioner prior to Tuesday's general election. Sixteen other incumbents for a county commissioner seat all across the state also lost, according to the Association of Minnesota Counties.

He previously served eight years in the Minnesota House of Representatives and cited the county board's record of eight consecutive years of a flat or reduced property tax levy in his race against Brekken.

After several attempts, Thiede did not return messages seeking his comments about Tuesday's general election. Commissioners serve a four-year term and are paid $30,900 a year. Thiede's term ends in 2019.

"We didn't have an adversarial campaign ... and so I think we can be cordial to each other as we come out of this election," said Brekken, who Thiede criticized at an Oct. 9 board meeting.

Brekken will thank his supporters and donors at an open house 2-4 p.m. Saturday at Breezy Point Resort's Dockside Lounge.

Unofficial vote totals by precinct

• Breezy Point—Brekken, 589; Thiede, 649.

• Crosslake (Precinct 1)—Brekken, 360; Thiede, 361.

• Crosslake (Precinct 2)—Brekken, 254; Thiede, 303.

• Gail Lake Township—Brekken, 19; Thiede, 14.

• Ideal Township—Brekken, 288; Thiede, 381.

• Jenkins—Brekken, 66; Thiede, 73.

• Jenkins Township—Brekken, 84; Thiede, 142.

• Mission Township—Brekken, 232; Thiede, 217.

• Nisswa—Brekken, 703; Thiede, 415.

• Pelican Township—Brekken, 131; Thiede, 118.

• Pequot Lakes—Brekken, 481; Thiede, 510.

• Timothy Township—Brekken, 24; Thiede, 50.

• Red (Unorganized Territory)—Brekken, 474; Thiede, 387.