Libertarians to convene in Mandan with focus on maintaining recognized party status
BISMARCK - Libertarian Party members will descend on Mandan on Saturday to give early endorsements for the 2016 elections with hopes of maintaining the status they achieved last year in becoming the third recognized political party in North Dakota.
BISMARCK – Libertarian Party members will descend on Mandan on Saturday to give early endorsements for the 2016 elections with hopes of maintaining the status they achieved last year in becoming the third recognized political party in North Dakota.
North Dakota party chairman Roland Riemers of Grand Forks said he expects between 50 and 150 people to attend the combined statewide convention of the North Dakota and South Dakota Libertarian parties from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Baymont Inn.
Riemers received 5.3 percent of the vote for secretary of state in November 2014, which was enough to guarantee the party its own column in the June 2016 primary ballot. Its candidates who advance from that election will carry the party label on the November ballot.
Under North Dakota law, political parties can become eligible for the ballot in three ways: by organizing into districts, as Republicans and Democrats do; by collecting 7,000 signatures from qualified voters; or by receiving at least 5 percent of the vote for secretary of state or attorney general during midterm elections or in the governor’s race during presidential elections like the one coming up in November 2016.
“The governor’s race is kind of wide open, so it’s a golden opportunity for that,” Riemers said.
With Gov. Jack Dalrymple not seeking re-election, one Republican, state Rep. Rick Becker of Bismarck, has announced his candidacy, and Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem is expected to officially enter the race before Thanksgiving. State Treasurer Kelly Schmidt, state Sen. Tom Campbell of Grafton and Fargo businessman Doug Burgum also are mulling runs for governor.
No Democrats have announced, though former agriculture commissioner Sarah Vogel said this week she’s in the early stages of exploring a run.
Riemers said while it’s important that the Libertarian candidate garner more than 5 percent of the vote in the governor’s race to maintain its status, the party also is interested in other statewide races and endorsing candidates for legislative races.
He said some party members have expressed interest in the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican Sen. John Hoeven and the U.S. House seat held by GOP Rep. Kevin Cramer. But he said the party needs its strongest candidate in the governor’s race. He declined to name possible candidates.
“We kind of want to hold our options open until the convention and see whose arm we can twist the most,” he said.
Robert “Jack” Seaman of Fargo, who captured 5.8 percent of the vote in the U.S. House race last year, wouldn’t divulge which office he plans to seek during an interview Tuesday, but he indicated he’s not leaning toward the governor’s race.
“I haven’t ruled it out 100 percent, but my attention is elsewhere,” he said.
Seaman said he thinks the party’s chances in 2016 are “great,” noting the strong showings so far of presidential contenders such as Donald Trump, Ben Carson, Carly Fiorina and Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont.
“I think it just shows how desperate people are for something outside of an establishment candidate, and of course that’s what we’re all about. So it’s exciting times,” he said.
One Libertarian candidate for president, Derrick Reid, is expected to address the convention, which is open to the public, Riemers said.