Both North Dakota parties find 2008 good for legislative racesBISMARCK — North Dakota’s political parties have found 2008 to be a good year to recruit legislative candidates, and they credit vigorous competition in the presidential races for the interest.
By: Janell Cole, N.D. Capitol Bureau
BISMARCK — North Dakota’s political parties have found 2008 to be a good year to recruit legislative candidates, and they credit vigorous competition in the presidential races for the interest.
Friday was the filing deadline for candidates for the state primary and local elections. Paperwork had to be submitted to the secretary of state, county auditors or city auditors by 4 p.m. Friday.
The state’s 23 even-numbered legislative districts have elections this year.
For the first time in decades the Democratic-NPL filled every legislative race on the ballot, they said Friday.
Republicans aren’t far behind, having found 65 of 69 candidates needed for legislative races.
Democratic-NPL Party Executive Director Jamie Selzler said the party is researching records to find out how long it has been since it has had a full legislative slate.
“I’ve heard anywhere from 15 years to 25 years,” he said Friday, “At least five or six election cycles.”
The GOP is missing only one Senate candidate, in District 4, where Sen. John Warner, D-Ryder, will get a bye. And they’re missing one House candidate in each of three districts— District 4, Jamestown’s District 12, and Grand Forks’ District 18.
State Chairman Gary Emineth said the party has a full slate of legislative candidates in three districts for which they could find no candidates four years ago—the Democratic strongholds of District 20, District 24 and District 26.
In District 24, the GOP’s 2006 U.S. Senate candidate, Dwight Grotberg of Sanborn, will take on Sen. Larry Robinson, D-Valley City.
In statewide races, Republicans still did not find anyone to support for state superintendent of public instruction, a non-partisan office in which both parties typically issue a letter of support for a like-minded educator. It doesn’t mean Superintendent Wayne Sanstead gets a bye. A fellow Democrat, Max Laird of Thompson, has filed for the race. Both will automatically advance to the November ballot.
Only one sitting district judge, Northwest District Judge David Nelson of Williston, faces opposition, from Minot attorney Jeffrey Sheets. Elsewhere, the East Central District judgeship being vacated by Cynthia Rothe-Seeger will have a race between Susan Bailey of West Fargo and Wickham Corwin of Fargo.
In most past elections, going back many years, both parties have given a pass to opposite-party incumbents in at least a few legislative districts.
This time, Emineth said, “It’s really a year the presidential races have done a lot to get people excited.”
Selzler agreed. He said his goal when he took the party job 14 months ago was to have a complete legislative slate. That was before anyone knew that the national presidential campaign would cause nearly 20,000 Democrats to turn out for presidential caucuses and the state convention welcomed speeches by two Democratic presidential candidates, he said.
For the few slots that remained to fill after the party’s state convention ended Sunday, Selzler said, the governor-lieutenant governor candidate team of Sen. Tim Mathern, D-Fargo, and Rep. Merle Boucher, D-Rolette, personally recruited candidates.
It is a big year for legislative retirements. Republicans have had seven incumbents announce they’re retiring, and an eighth, Rep. Dawn Charging, R-Garrison, recently resigned outright. The party appointed its District 4 chairman, Daryl Lies of Douglas, to hold the seat and he is also seeking election.
The other seven Republicans who won’t return for the 2009 session are Sens. Ben Tollefson of Minot, Herb Urlacher of Taylor and Nick Hacker of Grand Forks, and House members Clara Sue Price of Minot, Ron Carlisle of Bismarck, Gil Herbel of Grafton and C.B. “Buck” Haas of Taylor.
For Democrats, two former assistant floor leaders—Sen. Joel Heitkamp of Hankinson and Rep. Pam Gulleson of Rutland—are not seeking re-election, and a third veteran, Rep. Ole Aarsvold, D-Blanchard, is also leaving.
District 2 in the northwest part of the state has an odd bit of bi-partisan competition out of the Divide County Journal offices. Publisher emeritus John Andrist, a Republican state senator since 1993, is running for re-election, while the paper’s news editor, Cecile Wehrman of Fortuna, is on the Democratic-NPL ticket for the House.
Janell Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Dickinson Press.