Mathern demands Hoeven 'clear the air' about serving full third term
BISMARCK -- Fargo Sen. Tim Mathern pledged Wednesday not to serve more than two terms if elected, and said Gov. John Hoeven also needs to "clear the air" about his political future before November's election.
North Dakota Democrats endorsed Mathern April 5 to oppose Hoeven.
Hoeven announced last fall that he would seek a historic third four-year term, but has been coy about whether he would commit to serving the entire term. It is widely expected in political circles that he will oppose Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., in 2010.
"I think it's time to clarify that plan for the future," Mather said. "Is he running to be in for 12 years, 16 years, more years? Is he planning to campaign for a Senate race or congressional race during the next two years?"
But Hoeven campaign manager Don Larson said Hoeven has already addressed this issue.
"This is a question that was asked and answered when the governor announced his re-election campaign last year. He is focused on his job as governor, and his plan is to serve his term," Larson said.
In September, when Hoeven made it known he would seek a third term, he said,
"Well look, we're focused on job as governor; I'm not going to speculate on what would happen in the future. We're focused on running for governor to do the job for the people of North Dakota."
Larson said it's "ironic that Tim Mathern is even asking this question when he himself is running for another office in the middle of his Senate term. In fact, his running mate is also in the middle of his term."
Mathern was most recently re-elected to a four-year term from Fargo's District 11 in 2006, and has been in the Senate since 1987. His running mate is Rep. Merle Boucher, D-Rolette, the House minority leader. He, too, was most recently re-elected in 2006 and has been in the House since 1991.
Mathern was prepared for the criticism, saying at his news conference Wednesday that there is a big difference between a governor quitting mid-term and a local legislator leaving his post in mid-term.
He said he would be only "one of 150" legislators to leave his post if he is elected. There are 141 members of the Legislature.
"The entire state would be affected dramatically less...that's the difference," he said.
Janell Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Dickinson Press.