Zubke, Voigt file to run for District 39
With the filing deadline nigh, two lifelong western North Dakotans have filed to run for a seat on the House of Representatives repping District 39.
Denton Zubke, CEO of Watford City’s Dakota West Credit Union, is running as a Republican, and 20-year-old Dickinson State University student Maddison Voigt will be on the ticket as a Democrat.
Rep. David Drovdal, a Republican who currently represents the district, will not run after 20 years at the Legislature.
Rep. Keith Kempenich and Sen. Bill Bowman -- both are Republicans from Bowman, have filed for reelection.
Zubke has been a part of Dakota West Credit Union since 1987, watching it grow from from a single location to 10 branches. He was trying to recruit someone to run for the open spot Drovdal will leave at the Capitol, and without much luck, Zubke one day simply looked in the mirror.
“You know,” he said he told himself, “if you keep thinking somebody has to do this, maybe you should do it yourself.”
From his work for the Western Area Water Supply bill passed in 2011, he gained a familiarity with the Legislature, but admits he still has a lot to learn -- and that as a new legislator, he’d have it harder than others.
“Coming in there as a freshman representative, it is not going to be easy,” he said. “This is a very difficult job.”
Zubke’s WAWS work as an example, Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford said Zubke has long been a leader for economic development and progress in the community.
The water project, for example, helped Watford City grow to meet its needs.
“Denton was relentless in his championing the project,” Sanford said. “... He’ll be a great advocate for us in Bismarck.”
While Voigt’s age might throw some off, she said that doesn’t matter as much as her goal to represent the district.
“I wouldn’t be alone. I’d have the voice of the people,” Voigt said. “I don’t think it matters your age -- if you can represent someone well you’re unstoppable no matter how old you are.”
It might even be a benefit, she said -- “I don’t know how to work the system like some people do.”
Rose Hansen, Voigt’s aunt, said her niece has interest in politics -- plus, there’s no one else running as a Democrat.
“She says they can’t find anyone to run in District 39 on this ticket and she just wants to make people more aware that we need to stand up and have a voice,” Hansen said. “It’s the people’s Legislature, you know?”
Hansen said she mostly has seen small groups of elderly people at the meetings she attends, and so she’s excited to see a young person joining politics so early on.
Both Zubke and Voigt said a top priority if elected is educating other legislators as to what’s happening in western North Dakota -- something legislators from the west have been working on for a couple sessions now. They both listed roads, affordable housing, emergency response and social services as oil-impacted sectors that need more resources.
“We’ve tried to alert everyone by being nice and informative and I know we’ve also tried pounding on the table to make people aware of it,” Zubke said. “But at this point in time I don’t think anything has been very effective for us.”
Voigt said the fact there hasn’t been a special session to address what western legislators say are time-sensitive needs for oil-impacted counties shows they aren’t getting the message across.
“I feel like we need to be represented better. I don’t feel like our voices were heard,” she said.
Zubke pointed out how the school in Watford City will grow by a projected 1,000 students by 2017, and how even the current student base is lacking basic essentials.
“We have an indoor RV park that the school system is sending two school busses out to [to] pick up kids,” he said.
With a list of priorities he’s generated from the conversations with the community, and born and raised in Grassy Butte, Zubke said he’s in-tuned to the district.
While changing the formula so oil-producing counties get a bigger share of the tax is a commonly brought up solution, Zubke brought up one-time appropriations or a temporary shift in the formula to help these oil-impacted communities “can make this leap” and catch up with some of the problems they’re facing -- “as opposed to just doing damage control all the time.”
Voigt,a sophomore at Dickinson State University, has been around for one less oil boom but is as passionate about preserving her home community with what’s going on from the current activity. She’s studying environmental biology, something she said could be used for a career in reclaiming old well sites and mines.
After living in Killdeer her whole life, she said, “it’s just home, it’s what i know and i’ve seen how the oil has impacted it.”
She comes from a family with a couple other politicians -- her aunt, Shirley Meyer, represented District 36, which surrounds Dickinson, from from 1997-99 and 2005-11. Grandpa Jack Murphy represented the same district in the 1970s and 80s.
Voigt said she remembers when a major car accident would make the news -- now it’s murders, stabbings and shootings.
“It’s starting to become common …” she said. “I personally don’t want that.”