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ND legislative slate solidifies as Democrats try to climb out of slump

House majority leader Rep. Al Carlson (R-Fargo) urges members of the House to override Governor Doug Burgum's vetor of a HB 1153, a bill that would cap employee bonuses in the governors office and appointees. Rep. Carlson said he and House Minority Leader Rep. Corey Mock, seated right, were united in supporting the override vote. Tom Stromme / Bismarck Tribune file photo1 / 2
Scott McNeil2 / 2

BISMARCK — A North Dakota Democratic-NPL leader was optimistic this week that the party would gain seats in the state Legislature this fall and chip away at the Republican supermajority as each party solidified their candidate slate.

But the top House Republican was just as confident they'd maintain their grip on the state Capitol.

Monday afternoon, April 9, marked the filing deadline for the June 12 primary election, which will determine candidates for the November ballot.

North Dakota Democrats took a drubbing two years ago, when leaders in both chambers lost their re-election bids and Republicans added 16 seats between the House and Senate. Democrats hold just 22 of the 141 seats in the state Legislature today.

Democrats are missing candidates in three of the 24 state Senate seats up for grabs this year, while Republicans were absent in just one district, according to lists posted on the secretary of state's website. In the House, Democrats have 38 candidates for the 48 slots available and Republicans have 51 due to a few intraparty contests.

"We are miles ahead of where we were in 2014 with recruitment in the western part of the state," Democratic-NPL Executive Director Scott McNeil said, pointing to a full slate of candidates in Williston and Dickinson districts.

Both Republican House and Senate majority leaders, Fargo Rep. Al Carlson and Dickinson Sen. Rich Wardner, respectively, face re-election challenges. The same goes for Senate Minority Leader Joan Heckaman, a Democrat from New Rockford.

Democrats will also look to defend their westernmost legislator, Bismarck Sen. Erin Oban. She'll be challenged by former state GOP Chairman Gary Emineth.

Meanwhile, two Republicans are vying for the state Senate seat Grafton Republican Tom Campbell is vacating to run for Congress. Four Republicans are battling for the two House seats on the east side of Minot.

Libertarians have one candidate running for the House in Fargo.

Only the odd-numbered of North Dakota's 47 legislative districts will be on the ballot this year. While Democrats failed to attract any candidates for two districts — one on the state's western border and another in central North Dakota — Republicans didn't muster challengers for the three Democratic incumbents in Rolette County on the Canadian border.

Carlson said voter turnout during a midterm election will be "key" and could be boosted by the marquee U.S. Senate race pitting Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp against Republican Rep. Kevin Cramer. And the legislative races will add one more Heitkamp to the mix.

Sierra Heitkamp, Heidi's third cousin who's attending North Dakota State University, is running as a Republican for the Fargo state Senate seat left open by Democrat Carolyn Nelson's retirement. Democratic Rep. Kathy Hogan is also running for that seat.

"We're really impressed with the people we've got running," Carlson said. "I'm very optimistic that we'll be very successful in the fall."

Cass County legislative primaries

Seven districts that include parts of Cass County will each elect two representatives and one senator to the North Dakota Legislature this year. The final vote will happen in November, but candidates first will face a primary race on the June 12 ballot.

  • District 11 includes central and near-south neighborhoods in Fargo. Senate: Tim Mathern (incumbent, Democratic-NPL) and Todd McMichael (Republican). House: Gretchen Dobervich (incumbent, Democratic-NPL); Bridget Ertelt (Republican); Ron Guggisberg (incumbent, Democratic-NPL); and Kathy Jorgenson (Republican).
  • District 13 includes West Fargo and adjacent areas. Senate: Judy Lee (incumbent, Republican) and Carrie Leopold (Democratic-NPL). House: Dianne Hyndman (Democratic-NPL); Kim Koppelman (incumbent, Republican); Landis Larson (Democratic-NPL); and Austen Schauer (Republican).
  • District 21 includes downtown Fargo, parts of North Dakota State University and the Hawthorne, Jefferson and Madison neighborhoods. Senate: Sierra Heitkamp (Republican) and Kathy Hogan (Democratic-NPL). House: LaurieBeth Hager (Democratic-NPL); William Kloubec (Republican); Madison Rodgers (Republican); and Mary Schneider (incumbent, Democratic-NPL).
  • District 25 includes the southern edge of Cass County, including the cities of Oxbow and Kindred, as well as eastern Richland County. House: Cindy Beck (incumbent, Republican); Bill Berlin (Democratic-NPL); Rebecca Forness (Republican); and Alisa Mitskog (incumbent, Democratic-NPL). Senate: Larry Luick (incumbent, Republican) and Perry Miller (Democratic-NPL).
  • District 27 includes south Fargo, Horace, Frontier, Briarwood and Stanley. Senate: Quinn Garrick (Democratic-NPL) and Kristin Roers (Republican). House: Tom Beadle (incumbent, Republican); Randy Boehning (incumbent, Republican); Ruth Buffalo (Democratic-NPL); and Jon Kitzman (Democratic-NPL).
  • District 41 primarily includes south Fargo neighborhoods between Interstate 29 and 25th Street South. House: Pamela Anderson (incumbent, Democratic-NPL); Al Carlson (incumbent, Republican); Brandon Medenwald (Democratic-NPL); and Michelle Strinden (Republican). Senate: Kyle Davison (incumbent, Republican) and Paula Thomas (Democratic-NPL).

District 45 includes the north parts of Fargo and West Fargo as well as homes north of the city in Reile’s Acres, North River, Harwood, Argusville and Gardner. House: Tim Hoye (Democratic-NPL); Mary Johnson (incumbent, Republican); Tom Kading (incumbent, Republican); Lukas Maughan (Democratic-NPL); and Janelle Steinberg (Republican). Senate: Danielle Pinnick (Democratic-NPL) and Ronald Sorvaag (incumbent, Republican).

John Hageman

John Hageman covers North Dakota politics from the Forum News Service bureau in Bismarck. He attended the University of Minnesota in the Twin Cities, where he studied journalism and political science, and he previously worked at the Grand Forks Herald and Bemidji Pioneer.  

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