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Sen. Bob Stenehjem enters PSC race

BISMARCK -- Bob Stenehjem said he's running for the Public Service Commission to continue what he's always done in the state Senate.

The PSC's main function is to act as a "servant and chief consumer advocate for the people of North Dakota," he said Friday in Bismarck. "My entire political career has been dedicated to doing just that--being an effective advocate for the citizens of this state."

Stenehjem, a Bismarck Republican, has been a state senator since 1993 and Senate majority leader since 2001. His brother, Wayne Stenehjem, is the state attorney general.

Stenehjem made his intentions formal Friday at announcements in Fargo, Bismarck and Dickinson.

To make it onto the ballot for the PSC, he first has to defeat two others for the party nomination at the March state convention.

North Dakota State University military logistics professor Brian Kalk of Fargo and former Cass County Commissioner and Fargo financial consultant Steve Risher earlier announced their intentions to win the party nomination.

The three are attempting to succeed Susan Wefald, who's retiring rather than seek another six-year term. She's been on the commission since early 1993.

One Democrat, Fargo human rights advocate and attorney Cheryl Bergian, has announced a run for the PSC. Bergian ran unsuccessfully for the PSC two years ago.

Other Democrats have expressed interest but have not announced decisions to run.

Stenehjem, 56, said he has proven himself a good listener during his years in the Senate and the people who have worked with him "know that I am fair, honest, cooperative, and most importantly, responsive."

Stenehjem's Friday announcement comes nearly a month after he originally planned to jump into the race. He had set Jan. 7 kick-off events but then canceled them. He said Friday that he was beset by doubts at that time because other Republican Senators asked him not to leave the Senate. If Stenehjem is on the November ballot for PSC, he will be giving up his Senate seat.

He said earlier this week that if he is defeated for the PSC nomination at the state convention, he will seek re-election to the Senate.

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