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Former Sen. Byron Dorgan shares a laugh with the audience during May 21's "civility in public discourse" symposium at UND's Chester Fritz Library.

Cabinet role for former Sen. Dorgan?

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Energy Dickinson, 58602
Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

GRAND FORKS -- A former member of North Dakota's congressional delegation is reportedly being considered for a role in President Barack Obama's Cabinet.

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Retired Sen. Byron Dorgan's name is circulating in Washington as a potential replacement for outgoing Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

The Washington website and newspaper Politico put Dorgan on a short list of potential appointees with the former governors of Washington, Michigan and Colorado and a Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor.

A Washington Post political blogger also mentioned Dorgan, a Democrat who spent 30 years in Congress as a representative and senator before retiring in 2011, as Chu's possible successor.

Dorgan was traveling Friday and could not respond to a request to comment on the speculation, according to his assistant.

Dorgan declined to say anything about the possibility of a Cabinet appointment in an interview with Platts Energy Week in November.

Mark Jendrysik, political science professor at the University of North Dakota, said Dorgan as a choice to lead the Energy Department would make sense for Obama.

"Having a senator from a state with an ongoing energy boom wouldn't be a bad move," he said.

Nominating a longtime senator, as Obama did with his picks of John Kerry and Chuck Hagel as secretaries of State and Defense, usually makes for a smooth confirmation in the Senate, Jendrysik said.

Representing a state with big coal and oil industries gives Dorgan an image as a friend to the energy industry too, according to Jendrysik.

"He's the kind of person I'm sure Obama could work with and give him maybe some cover," he said.

Dorgan referred to the president as a friend in his Platts interview.

As a senator, Dorgan was a member of the Senate Energy Committee and organized annual energy conferences in North Dakota. He is also a leader of the Energy Project of the Bipartisan Policy Center think tank.

"It would surprise me if he's pondering his next move," Jendrysik said.

The last North Dakota politician to hold a cabinet post was former Gov. Ed Schafer, who was agriculture secretary under President George W. Bush.

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