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Gubernatorial candidates face off in first debate Thursday night

BISMARCK--Gubernatorial candidates will take their first shot at taking their case to a statewide audience Thursday, closing the Greater North Dakota Chamber's 2016 Policy Summit with a bang.

Doug Burgum, right, winner of the Republican gubernatorial primary Tuesday, holds a press conference with running mate Brent Sanford on Wednesday, June 15, 2016, at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Fargo.Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
Doug Burgum, right, winner of the Republican gubernatorial primary Tuesday, holds a press conference with running mate Brent Sanford on Wednesday, June 15, 2016, at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Fargo.Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

BISMARCK-Gubernatorial candidates will take their first shot at taking their case to a statewide audience Thursday, closing the Greater North Dakota Chamber's 2016 Policy Summit with a bang.

The 90-minute debate begins at 6:30 p.m. at the Ramkota Hotel in Bismarck with Doug Burgum, a Fargo businessman and Republican candidate, squaring off against Rep. Marvin Nelson, D-Rolla, and Fargo businessman Marty Riske of the Libertarian Party.

Thursday's debate is the first of three scheduled prior to the Nov. 8 general election. The North Dakota Newspaper Association is sponsoring an Oct. 3 debate in Bismarck and Prairie Public Television will host one Oct. 10 in Fargo that will air Oct. 12.

"Each candidate has an opportunity to talk about their priorities," Greater North Dakota Chamber President Andy Peterson said, adding that the differences between each candidate likely will be stark.

Burgum said in a statement he's looking forward to the debate and the race entering the final stretch.

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"As a lifelong job creator, we need to transform North Dakota's economy for the future and these three debates will give voters the opportunity to learn about how we can move our state forward in the 21st century," Burgum said. "I strongly encourage North Dakota voters to get involved in this important election."

Nelson said he's unsure of what to expect Thursday.

"It'll be an opening salvo," Nelson said. "There's a lot of issues in the state."

Outside of discussing policy ideas, the debate will be Nelson's first opportunity to provide more exposure for himself and his campaign to a statewide audience.

"There's really a lot going on in North Dakota that we should be talking about," Nelson said.

Riske said this is a rare opportunity for a Libertarian candidate to participate in a debate and a good chance to reach more people.

"I'll be a fresh voice. The culture of politics in this country has been 'this team versus that team.' Here's an opportunity to bring a third voice," Riske said.

The debate caps the day-long event at the Ramkota, which will feature a series of panel discussions from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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Discussions on mental health, a tobacco tax ballot measure and business tax incentives are scheduled for the morning.

A panel on political party views will begin after lunch featuring state GOP Chairman Kelly Armstrong, Dem-NPL Chairwoman Kylie Oversen and Libertarian Party Chairman Tony Mangnall.

"These are the folks that recruit candidates. Ultimately, they make policy decisions on behalf of the electorate," said Peterson, adding their insight should be enlightening as to the current campaign season.

A panel on the North Dakota Legacy Fund is scheduled after the political panel. Rounding out the afternoon sessions is one called the "Hot Box" in which a group of panelists will engage on several topics including Medicaid, immigration, marijuana legalization, constitutional carry and religious freedom bills.

Peterson said constitutional carry, which is the issue of carrying a handgun without a government permit, could come up during the 2017 session.

"That has the potential of eliciting strong reactions," Peterson said. "It should be kinda fun."

For more information about the Policy Summit, visit www.ndchamber.com .

Related Topics: DOUG BURGUM
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