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Devils Lake-area Republicans appoint Hofstad's successor

CANDO--A semi-retired farmer from Cando will fill a vacant seat in the North Dakota Legislature left by Republican Rep. Curt Hofstad's sudden death last month.

CANDO-A semi-retired farmer from Cando will fill a vacant seat in the North Dakota Legislature left by Republican Rep. Curt Hofstad's sudden death last month.

District 15 Republicans voted Saturday to appoint Greg Westlind, a longtime friend of Hofstad's, to the seat, just a couple of weeks before lawmakers convene in Bismarck for a special session called by Gov. Jack Dalrymple to address the state's budget shortfall. Westlind hasn't been sworn into office yet, but he anticipates doing so before the special session, which is scheduled for Aug. 2 through 4.

A member of the operations board at the Towner County Medical Center, Westlind said Medicaid cuts will be a priority for him during that three-day session.

"I probably will work to get those cuts reversed," he said. "Sixty percent of our clients up here in Cando at our nursing home are Medicaid patients."

Hofstad, a lifelong Starkweather-area farmer who served in the state House since 2007, died in mid-June at age 70. His son previously said the cause was a suspected heart attack.

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Westlind said he and Hofstad were friends for about 40 years, and he was among the casketbearers at Hofstad's funeral.

"We've taken several trips with the Hofstads," he said. "He was one of my best friends."

That helps explain why Westlind said he wants to give "110 percent" during his time in the Legislature.

He has been involved with the Republican Party for what he estimated was 25 years.

"This is going to be a life-changing experience for me, I can guarantee you that," he said.

Hofstad wasn't up for re-election this year, but the timing of his death means his seat will be on the ballot in November.

Westlind's appointment lasts until Dec. 1, according to a post on the District 15 Republicans' Facebook page. The local party will hold a convention to endorse a candidate to serve the remaining two years of the term, and Westlind said he intends to run in November.

Dennis Miller, chairman of the District 15 Republicans, said there may be other candidates planning to run in the endorsing convention.

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Kylie Oversen, the chairwoman of the North Dakota Democratic Party, previously said they planned to find a candidate to run for Hofstad's seat. She didn't immediately return a message Tuesday afternoon.

District 15 covers Ramsey and Towner counties, including the city of Devils Lake.

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