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GOP-supported candidate leads superintendent fundraising

BISMARCK -- State superintendent candidate Kirsten Baesler has received campaign money from some of the state's most prominent figures and has taken the fundraising lead in the race.

Baesler of Mandan has raised nearly $36,000 this year in her bid to become the state's next leader of K-12 education, according to campaign finance reports. Her opponents, Max Laird and Tracy Potter of Bismarck, raised $8,000 and $3,200, respectively.

Both men said they have spent the past few months focused on getting their campaign message out before the primary rather than on fundraising. The top two vote-getters in the June 12 primary will advance to the November election.

"We made a conscious decision to get through this primary and that fundraising follows if everything goes according to what we hope," Laird said of his campaign.

Potter said he hasn't solicited funds but received support from friends who wanted to help get his campaign started. He said he's waiting until after the primary to focus on fundraising for the general election.

The superintendent of public instruction is a nonpartisan office, but Baesler received support from the Republican Party at its convention, while Laird received Democratic-NPL support. Potter did not seek party support, saying he wanted to honor the spirit of the nonpartisan office.

Baesler's big donations include $5,000 from the state Republican Party, $2,000 from Sen. John Hoeven, $1,000 from Rep. Rick Berg and $970 from Fargo businessman Doug Burgum.

State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt and Ag Commissioner Doug Goehring each gave $250. Baesler also received $250 from Sen. Tim Flakoll, R-Fargo, $300 from Sen. Don Schaible, R-Mott, and $300 from Rep. RaeAnn Kelsch, R-Mandan.

Flakoll and Schaible serve on the Senate Education Committee, and Kelsch is chairwoman of the House Education Committee.

Baesler said she's grateful for the support she's received from across the state.

"It sends a message to me that education is as important to our citizens as it is to me and to educators across the state," she said.

Potter's biggest donation of $2,000 came from Sam McQuade Jr. of Bismarck. Lewis & Clark Fort Mandan Foundation President David Borlaug of Washburn gave $500.

Potter, who ran against Hoeven for U.S. Senate in 2010, said he hopes voters will remember him from his county courthouse campaign stops during that race.

Laird received $1,000 from Dan and Barb Hinnenkamp of Grand Forks. Hinnenkamp is a retired math teacher and president of the North Dakota Education Association Foundation. Laird also received $1,000 from the United Transportation Union in Bismarck.

He said he's provided self-funding to his campaign.

"I'm running as a no-party candidate primarily," Laird said. "I am engaging in this race because of my passion for kids and that changes my perspective on the whole fundraising/finance thing. I would rather be less partisan and more kid-centered."

Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.