FARGO — Voters may think they are seeing double on the ballot if voting in Fargo District 46 this year. Two people with the same first and last name are running for the same position.
Ben M. Hanson is a democratic candidate running to become a North Dakota state representative in District 46. He isn't to be confused with Ben W. Hanson, a democratic candidate running to become a North Dakota state representative in District 46.
If you look on the ballot, the two are differentiated by middle initials: M and W. Both are in their 30s, both grew up in Fargo, both graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead, both wear glasses and they both have a beard.
"Ben M. Hanson clearly has a superior beard to me," Ben W. Hanson said.
As the older Ben, Ben M. Hanson is the first to jump on the Ben-wagon, but Ben W. was first to get into local politics. He was first elected to serve District 16 in 2012 and but lost the seat in 2016. It confused many people who knew Ben M. Hanson.
"I, for sure, got that quite a bit from family and friends that I don't see very often," Ben M. Hanson said, noting he would hear: " 'I didn't know you were in politics. I didn't know you were running for office.' " Then he'd have to clarify that "there's another Ben Hanson."
Years later, Hanson figured if he can't be Ben, join Ben.
"The first time I met Ben, it was probably, five years ago? Four years ago? I walked in to grab lunch, I asked, 'Are you Ben Hanson?" Ben M. Hanson described.
Ben M. Hanson threw his hat in the ring for the first time, agreeing to team up with Ben W. Hanson. They don't see this as a bitter Ben battle. With two seats in District 46 up for grabs, they could both win.
"Name recognition is a huge, huge battle," Ben M. Hanson said. "So right off the bat, we're kind of one in the same, same team."
"(There's) a current sitting representative, Karla Rose Hanson, and there's another Hanson running up in Mayville," Ben W. Hanson explained. "I can't remember his first name. So we may just form a whole Hanson caucus when we get out there."
In his 30 years managing local elections, Cass County Finance Director Michael Montplaisir has never seen a pair of candidate names this similar.
"We've had other very similar names, but not as closely as this," he said.
Ben M. Hanson is focusing his policy on daycare accessibility and K-12 school improvements.
"Give new workers an incentive to move to North Dakota, if they know they can bring their family and be successful," Ben M. Hanson said.
"I'm a newcomer," he added. "My goal is to be a really good listener, a fast learner."
Ben W. Hanson spoke a lot about helping small businesses in North Dakota when going over his policies.
"Take advantage of things like a state-owned bank that's been helping out small businesses where the federal government has failed," he said.
The two Bens cannot campaign door-to-door because of the pandemic, so this balance of the Bens will keep their focus online — doing whatever they can to not confuse voters.
Ben M. Hanson and Ben W. Hanson are running against two Republican incumbents in District 46: Representatives Jim Kasper and Shannon Roers Jones. All four are expected to pass through the June 9 primary since they are uncontested within their respective parties. They will appear on the November ballot competing for two seats.