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Democrats kick off convention today with most delegates since 2008

BISMARCK - North Dakota Democrats will kick off their three-day state convention here Thursday with the most registered delegates since 2008 and a focus on rebuilding.

BISMARCK – North Dakota Democrats will kick off their three-day state convention here Thursday with the most registered delegates since 2008 and a focus on rebuilding.

Democratic-NPL Party Executive Director Robert Haider said 522 delegates are registered to attend the convention at the Bismarck Events Center, along with 60-some alternate delegates.

That’s the most since 2008, when then-presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton spoke to an estimated crowd of 17,400 on the convention’s opening night at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. At least 950 delegates attended that convention.

Haider said party officials are pleased with this year’s registration, after the 2012 and 2014 conventions each drew fewer than 500 delegates.

“I think people are excited about our candidates, particularly at the legislative level,” Haider said. “There’s a lot of excitement among our activists to get these folks elected.”

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Party officials say their priority is legislative races as they try to chip away at Republican supermajorities in the House and Senate.

Haider said the party has candidates lined up for 53 of the 69 legislative seats up for grabs, though not all have announced. Twenty Democrats have filed their candidacy with the secretary of state’s office for the 46 open House seats and nine candidates have filed for the 23 Senate seats, compared with 34 Republican candidates who have filed for House and 15 for Senate.

Former state Board of Higher Education chairwoman Kirsten Diederich announced Wednesday she’s seeking the endorsement for House District 46 in Fargo, and Bismarck business owner Tiffany Hodge said Thursday she’s running for the District 32 Senate seat.

But legislative candidates are endorsed at the district level, not the state convention, and the party has just two candidates for eight endorsed statewide offices on the November ballot, all of which are currently held by Republicans.

Democrats have yet to fill slots for U.S. House and Senate, state insurance commissioner, state treasurer, state auditor and a seat on the three-member Public Service Commission.

State Rep. Marvin Nelson of Rolla is seeking the Dem-NPL nod for governor and state Sen. Joan Heckaman of New Rockford for lieutenant governor. Those endorsements will take place Friday afternoon.

Delegates also typically issue a letter of support for their preferred candidate for state superintendent of public instruction, a nonpartisan office currently held by Republican Kirsten Baesler. She faces a challenge from Four Winds High School teacher Joe Chiang for the GOP letter of support.

The Dem-NPL’s platform and resolutions committee will kick off the convention activities at 5 p.m. Thursday, and committee meetings will resume at 9 a.m. Friday. The convention officially convenes at noon Friday in Exhibition Hall A of the Events Center.

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Tickets for the public are being sold for $25. Parking could be tight with the Shrine Circus taking place next door in the Events Center’s main arena.

U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York will deliver the convention’s keynote address at about 10 a.m. Saturday, after a speech by U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, the Dem-NPL’s lone statewide officeholder.

The GOP’s three-day state convention starts Friday, with scheduled speeches by presidential candidate Ted Cruz on Saturday and former presidential hopeful Ben Carson on Sunday.

Unlike Republicans, Democrats this weekend won’t select their delegates to their party’s national convention in July. That will happen at district caucuses in June.

 

Related Topics: ELECTION 2016
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