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Warwick woman to seek N.D. ag commissioner’s seat

FARGO – A Warwick woman will announce her candidacy for the office of state agriculture commissioner on Tuesday in Fargo.

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A news conference is set for 2 p.m. at Ramada Plaza Suites regarding Judy Estenson’s intent to file her candidacy for the office currently held by Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring.

Dawn Smith-Pfeifer, a campaign staffer who sent out the news release, said she couldn’t comment on Estenson’s candidacy prior to Tuesday’s announcement, including whether she will challenge Goehring for the Republican endorsement.

Jason Flohrs, executive director of the North Dakota Republican Party, said Monday, “My impression is that she’s going to be actually seeking the endorsement.”

Chad Oban, executive director of the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party, said that to his knowledge Estenson isn’t running as a Democrat. So far, Democrats haven’t announced a candidate for the seat.

Flohrs said he has heard that people involved with North Dakota Farm Bureau encouraged Estenson to run.

“And I have spoken to a couple Farm Bureau members who were surprised when they heard that and were concerned and mentioned that they have had a good working relationship with Doug in the past and think he’s done a good job,” he said. “So I was a little surprised in hearing about it.”

Goehring is a former vice president of North Dakota Farm Bureau and former president of Nodak Mutual Insurance Co.

Smith-Pfeifer is director of communications for the North Dakota Farm Bureau, but she said she sent out Monday’s announcement as a person working on Estenson’s campaign, not as a Farm Bureau official. She said she couldn’t comment on whether Farm Bureau is backing Estenson.

Pete Hanebutt, Farm Bureau’s director of public policy, said, “I think it would be premature for me to make any kind of comment on that campaign just because of the circumstances. I’m happy to talk to you in maybe 24 hours.” Hanebutt said he could not immediately confirm whether Estenson is a Farm Bureau member.

Flohrs said the party endorsement is an open process, and Estenson would be treated the same as anyone else who may seek the nod.

Reach Nowatzki at (701) 255-5607 or by email at

Mike Nowatzki

Mike Nowatzki reports for Forum News Service. He can be reached at (701) 255-5607.