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House minority leader joins governor's race

BISMARCK -- North Dakota's House minority leader said Tuesday he is running for governor because people in the state have told him "they want a change in attitude" among their government leaders.

Four years after was bested at the party convention by a philosophical, soft-spoken former state senator, Joe Satrom, Rep. Merle Boucher, D-Rolette, will make another try for the gubernatorial nomination -- against a philosophical, soft-spoken state senator, Tim Mathern of Fargo.

Barring more Democrats entering the fray, Mathern or Boucher will go up against Gov. John Hoeven, a Republican who is seeking his third four-year term.

Mathern formally announced his candidacy on Nov. 1. The Democratic-NPL Party convention is in Grand Forks April 4-6.

Boucher, a populist not known for mincing words, was backed by a banner declaring, "Leading the Miracle of Change" as he told Bismarck area Democrats he's better prepared than four years ago, when Satrom thumped him by about 2-to-1 at the party convention. Boucher made similar announcements in Grand Forks and Fargo on Tuesday and will hold a fourth event in Minot today.

He has said for months that he was considering another run. He acknowledged Tuesday that he had made up his mind by the time he issued a news release about two weeks ago saying House Majority Leader Rick Berg, R-Fargo, has been "in a coma" about problems in the state's workers' compensation agency.

Berg announced Jan. 11 that legislators would undertake a special review of the troubled agency, known as Workforce Safety and Insurance, or WSI.

Boucher said North Dakotans have told him they want someone in state government to "lead them down the road to change."

While the state government's treasury rakes in ever-increasing surpluses and with both crop prices and oil development at historic highs, North Dakota's population is aging and its numbers stalled.

"People are the missing link" in all this prosperity, he said.

Mathern issued a prepared statement Tuesday saying he has had a positive working relationship in the Legislature with Boucher since 1990. Mathern also noted that he has always encouraged more people to enter the race for the nomination.

"With Merle throwing his hat in the ring there is further proof that more people are taking concerns about the future of our state seriously."

Janell Cole works for Forum Communications Co., which owns The Dickinson Press.