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Tea Partiers to protest at Dems' state convention

FARGO -- North Dakota Democrats might face a different kind of party during their state convention this weekend.

Grassroots conservatives plan to gather Saturday for a tea party rally outside the Civic Center, while the Democratic-NPL Party gathers to endorse candidates for the 2010 election.

The tea partiers are set to protest the pro-health care reform votes cast by North Dakota Democratic Sens. Byron Dorgan and Kent Conrad and Rep. Earl Pomeroy, all of whom are scheduled to appear at the convention Saturday.

This weekend's convention comes on the heels of the enactment of health care reform, which has upset some North Dakotans while energizing Democratic party faithfuls.

Fargo conservative radio talk show host Scott Hennen, who's helping coordinate the rally, said the tea partiers don't seek to interrupt the convention proceedings, but just want to be heard by their congressional delegation.

Dorgan, Conrad and Pomeroy ignored their constituents by not conducting town hall meetings and by voting in favor of health care reform legislation, Hennen said.

"People are concerned and quite upset," he said. "The idea is that these guys clearly didn't listen to the public, and it's time for them to hear from North Dakotans ... and I think it's unfortunate that it's come to this."

State Democrats said they are prepared for protests outside the convention and plan to have event security on hand to ensure the convention process continues uninterrupted.

Meanwhile, Democrats say the health care vote has rejuvenated them heading into their state convention, which officially kicks off today.

"The party faithful are very energized by the courageous vote of Congressman Pomeroy," Party Chairman Mark Schneider said. "That is really going to be the buoyant factor kicking off our convention."

On Saturday, Pomeroy will seek the party's endorsement for a 10th term in the U.S. House. Bismarck state Sen. Tracy Potter is seeking the nomination in the U.S. Senate race, also Saturday.

State Republicans left their convention last week encouraged by strong prospects for victory in November, especially in winning back the House and Senate seats.

But the Republicans' excitement doesn't damper Democrats' motivation, Schneider said, citing the biblical reference of David and Goliath.

"I like that metaphor, because we all know how it ended," Schneider said. "There's no question that the Democratic-NPL Party is behind the political party curve in North Dakota at the present time, but I've been around long enough to see that swing and swing sometimes very, very rapidly."

While Democratic candidates have declared in most state races, some candidates could be determined on the convention floor today and Saturday.

No one has yet declared to seek the Democratic nomination for North Dakota attorney general or tax commissioner.

Potential candidates might be emboldened to come forward by the fallout from the health care reform legislation, while others might be waiting for a draft movement among convention delegates, Schneider said.