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Turnout, trends and where 1 vote made the difference: Here’s how locals voted in the 2022 midterm election

A total of 32,813 residents cast votes on or before Tuesday, Nov. 8, according to statistics provided by the Crow Wing County Elections office. Of those, nearly a quarter — 7,872 — voted by absentee or mail ballot, and 1,444 people registered to vote on Election Day.

Election judges turn in results Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, at the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse in Brainerd.
Election judges turn in results Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, at the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse in Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch
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BRAINERD — Although more Crow Wing County voters participated in this year’s midterm election than the last one, turnout among the eligible voter population was slightly down.

A total of 32,813 residents cast votes on or before Tuesday, Nov. 8, according to statistics provided by the Crow Wing County Elections office. Of those, nearly a quarter — 7,872 — voted by absentee or mail ballot, and 1,444 people registered to vote on Election Day.

The day began with 47,462 registered voters in Crow Wing County, but the state demographer’s office estimates a total of 53,143 residents are eligible to participate. This means 61.74% of those eligible here voted Tuesday.

In 2018, 1,177 fewer Crow Wing County voters cast ballots. Still, based on population counts at the time, those 31,636 voters represented 64.68% of those eligible.

Absentee and mail voting numbers this year were on par with 2018’s midterm, when just 48 more ballots were accepted in that fashion. Almost 600 more voters took part in same-day registration four years ago than did Tuesday.

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In town halls and other polling locations across the county, 393 election judges worked to serve the voters. Among those was Brenda Collins, head judge at Heritage Church, the polling location for those who live in Baxter’s P2E precinct. Collins was the first to arrive at the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse Tuesday night with ballots and other materials, just 55 minutes after polls closed. She could be seen reacting with a jump for joy in the parking lot upon learning she beat others to the office.

“Deb keeps telling me it’s not a competition,” Collins joked Tuesday, referring to Crow Wing County Administrative Services Director Deborah Erickson, who is the top elections official.

Andrew Shipe, who served as head judge at Trinity Lutheran Church in Brainerd’s Ward 1, Precinct 1, wasn’t far behind. The first-time election judge said after the uproar following the 2020 election, he realized he didn’t understand how some of the processes worked and he thought being a judge was one of the best ways to get involved.

“It’s even more structured than I expected, like there’s a checklist and a procedure for everything,” Shipe said. “That makes it very easy to know what to do and to know that things have been done the right way. … There’s so much structure in place that you can really trust the process.”

Election night Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, at the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse in Brainerd.
Administrative Services Director Deborah Erickson waits to talk to head election judges on election night Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, at the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse in Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

The precinct in Crosslake was the last to report at 10:46 p.m. Tuesday. All Crow Wing County results were uploaded at 11:15 p.m. with the final report on the Minnesota Secretary of State’s website at 11:39 p.m.

Results are unofficial until canvassed by boards in townships, cities and the county. The Crow Wing County General Election Canvass Board will meet 9 a.m. Thursday in the Jinx Ferrari Meeting room at the Historic Courthouse.

This year’s post-election review in Crow Wing County will take place 10 a.m. Nov. 21 in meeting rooms 1 and 2 at the Land Services Building, 322 Laurel St., Brainerd. Based on a resolution passed in August by the Crow Wing County Board, the post-election review process will include hand-counting results in twice as many precincts — four instead of two — as required by state law.

Crow Wing County breakdown

The most closely watched matchup in Crow Wing County was that for sheriff, featuring incumbent Sheriff Scott Goddard and Eric Klang , who served one term as sheriff in 2002-06.

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It was the only countywide contested race and drew 30,741 votes. Klang defeated the county’s top law enforcement officer to return to the helm himself after three unsuccessful previous runs. It was the biggest blowout in a contested sheriff’s race in at least 20 years and possibly longer, although county-level election results earlier than 2002 were not readily available Friday.

Klang earned 18,066 votes (58.66%) to Goddard’s 12,675 (41.15%) on Tuesday, a 5,391-vote margin. Goddard carried just four precincts of 64 in the county, and three of the four totaled fewer than 50 votes between the two candidates. The fourth — Timothy Township on the northern border — drew 89 voters, who broke for Goddard 59-30.

Photos from the Mid-Term Election
Election judge Anne Pritschet checks in voters at St. Andrews Catholic Church Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

The second-biggest margin in the last 20 years came in 2002, when Klang defeated incumbent Sheriff Dick Ross by 3,321 votes. The closest margin, by contrast, happened four years later, when Todd Dahl topped Klang by just six votes total.

The closest race for county commissioner this year occurred between Commissioner Steve Barrows and challenger Tad Erickson, a member of the Brainerd City Council. That District 3 race resulted in a 151-vote margin, with Barrows earning 2,260 votes to Erickson’s 2,109 votes.

Barrows topped Erickson in both Baxter precincts as well as Brainerd’s Ward 1 — covering downtown and south Brainerd, west of South Sixth Street — and Ward 2, Precinct 2, which includes north Brainerd. Erickson, meanwhile, earned more votes in northeast Brainerd and both precincts in Ward 4, which includes areas of the city south of Washington Street and east of South Sixth.

Although commissioner districts are roughly equal population-wise, significantly fewer votes were cast in the District 3 race (4,369) than those in districts 2 and 4. District 2, covering much of northwestern Crow Wing County and featuring no incumbent in the race, drew 7,070 voters. In District 4, 6,216 voters weighed in on the race between Commissioner Rosemary Franzen and Troy Scheffler.

Photos from the Mid-Term Election
Gerald Palmer escorts his neighbor M. Franzen out of the Northeast Fire Station after voting Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

The race to represent District 2 between Jenkins Mayor Jon Lubke and Robin Sylvester, a finance director with the Minnesota Department of Transportation, resulted in a 950-vote margin in Lubke’s favor. Lubke earned 4,010 votes (56.65%) to Sylvester’s 3,060 (43.23%).

Of the 12 precincts included in the district, two preferred Sylvester — Gail Lake Township in the northwest corner, where Sylvester earned 25 votes to Lubke’s 18, and Mission Township, with 245 votes for Sylvester and 208 votes for Lubke. Sylvester also kept it close in Timothy, Pelican and Jenkins townships, but ultimately could not overcome Lubke’s margins in more populated areas, such as Breezy Point, Nisswa and Crosslake.

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The contentious District 4 race between Franzen and Scheffler saw the widest gap, with Franzen earning 4,082 votes (65.34%) to Scheffler’s 2,134 (34.16%), a 1,948-vote margin. The precinct featuring the closest split was Brainerd’s Ward 2, Precinct 1, covering much of west Brainerd north to Wise Road. There, Franzen earned 431 votes to Scheffler’s 247.

Close or quirky elections

Of the dozens of races across the county, just one qualifies for a publicly funded recount based on how close results were: the race for two seats on the Ironton City Council. Coming in first was Dean French, who received 131 votes, and second place went to Matthew V. Bugnacki with 62 votes. Incumbent council member Rose Stromberg, however, fell just one short of Bugnacki with 61 votes.

Elections head Deborah Erickson said Thursday she hadn’t yet heard of any recounts requested in the county.

Breezy Point precinct rolls their results in on election night Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, at the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse in Brainerd.
Breezy Point precinct rolls their results in on election night Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, at the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse in Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

“The recount period will start after the municipalities canvas next week. Ironton is the only one that is in the publicly funded threshold. Any other recounts would have to be paid for by the losing candidate,” Erickson wrote in an email.

In Manhattan Beach, Mayor Paul Allen was the only candidate who filed for election to the mayoral post, receiving 18 votes. But 16 people wrote in an alternative. Erickson said according to the city clerk, a write-in campaign occurred in the community. Of the 16 write-in votes, 13 were for one candidate, while two voted for a former resident and one voted for Donald Duck.

In some races, no one filed to run at all. Township supervisor seats in four Crow Wing County townships — Garrison, Jenkins, Little Pine and Timothy — had no candidates, while Timothy Township also lacked a township clerk candidate. Two seats on the Cuyuna Hospital District Board also drew no candidates during the filing period.

Erickson said townships will meet next week to canvass results, at which time, whoever earned the most write-in votes in these races will be certified as the winner.

Photos from the Mid-Term Election
Election judge Julie Kletscher checks in a voter Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022 at Trinity Lutheran Church in Brainerd.
Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch

Loni Porta, Timothy Township clerk, said Friday they have yet to notify the people who won the write-in contests, with 12 people voting for supervisor and eight votes for clerk.

“There were quality write-ins, but nothing’s been decided yet,” Porta said.

Abra Hawley, Little Pine Township clerk, said she did not yet know who received the 10 write-in votes for township supervisor there. One resident expressed interest in telling his neighbors to write him in for the seat, she said, but she wasn’t sure whether he’d followed through. Abra’s husband Tim Hawley is the township board incumbent and waffled on whether to file for reelection, she said.

“If he got written in, I think he would accept it,” she said Friday. “I think he kind of maybe regretted it after the filing period was over and he didn’t file and nobody else filed.”

If the top vote-getter in any of these races doesn’t want to serve, Erickson said the township board would declare a vacancy and appoint someone until the next election, when a special election for the seat would occur.

“It doesn’t automatically go to the second place, and they can appoint any resident of the district,” Erickson said.

How did the region vote?

Republican candidates for the Minnesota House of Representatives and Minnesota Senate dominated across north-central Minnesota, despite the DFL Party gaining control of both legislative chambers.

The slimmest margin in any of the partisan Brainerd lakes area races occurred between Republican Ben Davis and DFLer Rick Blake in House District 6A, with Davis earning 62.3% of the vote. Both first-time candidates, Davis and Blake vied to fill an open seat in the newly formed district stretching from Grand Rapids to Garrison.

Eric Klang, running for Crow Wing County sheriff, left, and Ben Davis, running for Minnesota House 6A, talk at a gathering while waiting for results to come in Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, at the Northern Pacific Center in Brainerd.
Eric Klang, running for Crow Wing County sheriff, left, and Ben Davis, running for Minnesota House 6A, talk at a gathering while waiting for results to come in Tuesday, Nov. 8, 2022, at the Northern Pacific Center in Brainerd.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

Democrats swept statewide offices, but voters in the seven-county region voted for the Republican candidates in larger numbers across the board.

Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan earned 52.27% of the Minnesota vote to be reelected for another term, while Republican challengers Dr. Scott Jensen and Matt Birk garnered 192,381 fewer votes.

In the region, however, Walz and Flanagan earned fewer votes than the Jensen/Birk ticket. Voters in Aitkin County kept the contest closest, with Jensen earning 60.59% of the vote, or 5,110, compared to Walz’s 42.43%, or 3,030. Crow Wing County voters also kept it closer than much of the region: Jensen earned 20,186 votes, representing 61.82%, while Walz garnered 11,388 votes, or 34.87%. On the other end of the spectrum, Morrison County voters preferred Jensen/Birk by 74.58% to 22.33% for Walz.

Walz performed better in all area counties and in Minnesota in general during the 2018 election, when his opponent was Jeff Johnson, than he did this year.

The race for attorney general was much closer, with the final tally favoring Attorney General Keith Ellison by a 20,806-vote margin for reelection. Once again, the region preferred GOP opponent Jim Schultz, who performed significantly better than the Jensen ticket. Aitkin County voters kept it closest with Crow Wing second-closest — but the spreads were larger. Aitkin County preferred Schultz 66.51% to 33.48%, while Crow Wing County voters favored the Republican 66.81% to 33.13%.

Voters in the seven area counties of Aitkin, Cass, Crow Wing, Mille Lacs, Morrison, Todd and Wadena also favored Republican candidates Kim Crockett, who challenged Secretary of State Steve Simon, and Ryan Wilson, challenger to State Auditor Julie Blaha .

While GOPers failed to obtain statewide offices, some Congressional seats remained in Republican control, including the 8th Congressional District represented by Rep. Pete Stauber, R-Hermantown. With just two candidates on the ballot in his third run for the seat, Stauber bested Schultz by a larger margin than either of his two previous races.

CHELSEY PERKINS, community editor, may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com . Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/DispatchChelsey .

Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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