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Potential gubernatorial candidate for Dems attends fundraiser in her name

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Former North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Sarah Vogel might run for governor as a Democrat, but her supporters will have to wait a little while longer to know for sure.

GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Former North Dakota Agriculture Commissioner Sarah Vogel might run for governor as a Democrat, but her supporters will have to wait a little while longer to know for sure.

Vogel stopped Saturday at the Grand Forks Knights of Columbus Hall to attend a fundraiser local Democrats organized for her possible run at the state's highest office. In an interview, she declined to declare whether she was ready to run.

"I'd like to have a sense of how the whole 10 months is going to go--what I need to do in terms of gathering resources, finding people to help and so on," she said. "I'm not quite there yet, but that's what I'm working toward. It's sort of a 'stay tuned.'"

Vogel said she'll make an official decision before Democratic conventions across the state begin in late February, but she said Saturday she's leaning toward a run.

Asked what issues she'd like to address during a potential campaign, she said she'd prefer to wait before she jumps into the discussion.

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"I'd rather go into that when I announce," she said.

The Saturday fundraiser itself welcomed between 30 and 40 guests to the Knights of Columbus Hall for a potluck-style dinner, with a long list of local and state Democratic leaders in attendance. State Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, said that whatever happens, he hopes certain economic discussions come to the fore, like how much the North Dakota economy focuses on energy and agriculture.

"We need to talk about diversifying our economy," he said. "We've been talking about, as a state, investing a lot in the energy side of our growth, which is great. Energy has been a phenomenal contributor to North Dakota's recent development. The challenge is when you invest so much in one sector, rarely are you paying enough attention to all of the other industries in the state."

Vogel, who served as the state's agriculture commissioner from 1989 to 1997, previously worked in private practice as a lawyer and spent two years as an assistant attorney general. In 1996, she lost a run for the North Dakota Supreme Court to Mary Muehlen Maring and has since spent her time working in private practice.

During a speech at the fundraising event, she detailed her past support for farmers and union workers.

"I've always worked on trying to improve people's' lives, and should I run, that's what I'll continue to do," she told the crowd.

Should Vogel decide to enter the race, she'll enter a field populated by multiple opponents. The race includes Fargo businessman Doug Burgum, North Dakota Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and state Rep. Rick Becker of Bismarck, all Republicans.

Asked if Democrats have any other candidates in line for the governor's race, Robert Haider, the party's state executive director, didn't mention any names.

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"We've been talking to people going back months, and we'll see what Sarah has to say," he said.

Though Vogel's campaign is still in the exploratory stages, Becky Ronkowski, chairwoman of the Grand Forks Democrats, encouraged attendees to donate to the potential candidate's cause.

"We know the Republicans are probably going to beat us at the money game," she said. "But they're not going to beat us at the energy game."

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