Bussman, Knudsen receive GOP endorsement for District 5, 5A

Incumbent State Sen. Paul Utke said he will defend his Senate seat in a primary.

Bret Bussman received the Republican endorsement for State Senate District 5 at a district convention April 2, 2022 in Verndale, while Krista Knudsen was endorsed for House District 5A.
Contributed photos / Bret Busman and Krista Knudsen

Delegates to a Republican endorsing convention for State Senate Dist. 5 voted to endorse a challenger over incumbent Sen. Paul Utke of Park Rapids.

According to convention chair David De La Hunt, local Republican delegates from Hubbard, Becker, Wadena, Cass, Morrison and Todd counties gathered April 2 in Verndale to endorse candidates for Senate District 5 and House Districts 5A and 5B.

“The convention was well attended,” said De La Hunt. “It was great to see the energy in the convention hall. There were several great candidates, which led to the need for multiple ballots to arrive at an endorsement.”

Bussman endorsed for Dist. 5

Bret Bussman of Browerville was endorsed for Senate Dist. 5 on the second ballot.

In his appearance at the Hubbard County GOP convention on March 5, Bussman positioned himself as a Christian constitutional conservative, stressing parents’ rights in education and stating that he was challenging Utke because someone needs to hold career politicians’ feet to the fire.


Contacted on Monday, Bussman said was happy to receive the endorsement by a 62% vote. “I’m hoping that’s gonna be enough where I won’t have to go against anybody in a primary,” he said. “But if that happens, so be it.”

Regarding why the delegates supported him, he referred back to legislative Republicans’ voting record. “To me that should be enough,” he said. “They just shake their head. I’ve been to all six county conventions that are in the district. Everybody’s just shaking their heads. They’re just mad. It’s like, ‘Why do we keep putting up with this?’

“We have to do something new. That’s one of the complaints I hear from everybody: ‘We haven’t had the majority for 50 years, so we can’t do anything.’”

Bussman said he is campaigning on a platform to require voter ID. “Everybody needs to re-register,” he said. “They need to redo the voter rolls, start from zero. … And then, in order to get the ID, you need to have the same criteria as it takes to get a passport.”

Bussman called getting the endorsement just the first step. “But it’s an important step, because that should show everybody that the GOP as a group have stood up in Dist. 5 and have said, ‘This is the guy we want,’ by 62 to 38%,” he said.

Acknowledging that he is new to politics, Bussman said he hopes the Republican party will financially support his campaign in view of his success at the endorsing convention.

Utke on campaign trail

In a Monday press release, Utke announced his intent to defend his Senate seat in a primary election.

Currently chair of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, Utke said he is excited to share his record with voters, “so they know they have a strong, conservative Republican on the ballot in November.


“Everything I do at the Capitol is for the constituents I serve. I use my background in business, local government and as a community leader to make sure Minneostans have every opportunity promised to them in the American dream.”

Utke said he has cut taxes, defended life and worked against wasteful spending and fraud in the Department of Health and Human Services. “I introduced legislation to secure our elections and allow for Constitutional Carry in this state,” he said. “My record will remind people that conservative experience matters.”

Prior to being elected to the Senate, Utke served for several years on the Park Rapids City Council.

Knudsen endorsed for 5A

Krista Knudsen of Lake Shore was endorsed for House Dist. 5A, also on the second ballot.

She defeated Mike Paulus, the candidate endorsed by Utke.

“I’m truly honored,” Knudsen said in an interview, calling campaigning an awesome, new experience. “Meeting the people of this district was my favorite part. We are blessed to live with great people. Hearing their individual stories and their concerns just really ignited my passion to fight for our way of life.”

At the March 5 Hubbard County convention, Knudsen said she will push to strengthen businesses by fighting unconstitutional mandates, forced closures and tax increases. She also vowed to push for voter ID, return surplus funds to taxpayers, cut the tax on social security benefits and protect Second Amendment rights and the unborn.

Mike Wiener from Long Prairie received the delegates’ endorsement for House Dist. 5B, also on the second ballot.


Dist. 2, 2A and 2B

Republicans in State Senate Dist. 2 also held an endorsing convention on April 2. Due to redistricting that takes effect for the 2022 elections, nine northern Hubbard County townships will now belong in Senate Dist. 2 and House Dist. 2B.

According to Beltrami County Republican Chair Rich Siegert, more than 60 delegates attended the meeting run by Congressional District 8 Chair Ted Lovedahl.

“The turnout was well over what I expected,” Siegert said, “indicating to me constituents want a change in Minnesota politics.”

Current State Rep. Steve Green (R-Fosston, District 2B) was endorsed for Senate District 2, while Rep. Matt Grossell (R-Clearbrook) was endorsed for House District 2A, and Rep. Matt Bliss (R-Pennington, currently District 5A) was endorsed for House District 2B.

“It was a great convention,” said Siegert. “I think it indicates there is a lot of support for the Republicans this year – more support than I've seen in years.”

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at or 218-252-3053.
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