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Plain Talk: Dem sec. of state candidate says 'election integrity' is Republican code for 'voter suppression'

Jeffrey Powell, the Democratic-NPL candidate for secretary of state, talks about his campaign on this episode of Plain Talk, as does Republican U.S. Senate candidate Riley Kuntz.

Jeff Powell.jpg
Jeffrey Powell, an administrator at Mayville State University, is running for North Dakota secretary of state as a Democrat.
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MINOT, N.D. — Jeffrey Powell is an administrator at Mayville State University and the Democratic-NPL candidate for secretary of state. He was endorsed by the party's executive committee (he made a late decision to run so didn't attend the party's state convention in Minot) and in November will be facing off against one of two potential Republican candidates.

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"I expect to be announcing that decision in a matter ... of hours not days," he said, adding that he doesn't expect to make the announcement today, but it's coming soon.

State Rep. Michael Howe is squaring off with Bismarck mechanic Marvin Lepp in the NDGOP primary.

Powell has been watching that race, and on this episode of Plain Talk, said it frustrates him when the Republican candidates talk about "election integrity," arguing that's a "code word for voter suppression."

He said the primary job of a secretary of state is to protect the right of the people to vote, and he accused Republican lawmakers of enacting laws to suppress votes in past legislative sessions.

Powell also spoke about running as a Democrat in a state that has become deeply Republican over the last couple of decades. He said there is a "sense of fear" among Democrats who think about running for office in North Dakota. He acknowledged that both Republicans and Democrats have become more extreme in recent years, but that the alleged danger is "more keenly felt by people who are more likely to be Democrats."

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Powell said he hasn't personally felt any danger in running for office.

Also on this episode, Dickinson-based oil worker Riley Kuntz, who is challenging incumbent U.S. Sen. John Hoeven for the NDGOP's primary nomination, spoke about why he decided to mount what he admits is a long-shot bid to defeat one of North Dakota's most popular political figures.

He said he was disappointed state Rep. Rick Becker, who challenged Hoeven at the NDGOP's state convention, wasn't successful and felt he had to continue the challenge to Hoeven.

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Opinion by Rob Port
Rob Port is a news reporter, columnist, and podcast host for the Forum News Service. He has an extensive background in investigations and public records. He has covered political events in North Dakota and the upper Midwest for two decades. Reach him at rport@forumcomm.com. Click here to subscribe to his Plain Talk podcast.
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