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Mike Nowatzki, Published January 07 2010

Democrats ask Schultz to run for open seat

Former Fargo radio personality and current MSNBC host Ed Schultz was thrust Wednesday onto the list of potential candidates for Sen. Byron Dorgan’s open seat in the fall.

The left-leaning, red-haired talk-show host nicknamed “Big Eddie” didn’t rule out seeking the Democratic bid, but said he’s “a long way from any kind of decision.”

North Dakota House Minority Leader Merle Boucher said he called Schultz on Wednesday morning and “certainly made the suggestion to him and encouraged him to consider it.”

Boucher said Schultz has a good understanding of state, national and international politics, and the fact he hasn’t held political office could actually work to his advantage given the recent political climate.

“I think he is a person that has the capabilities to fill the shoes of someone of Byron Dorgan’s stature,” Boucher said from his farm near Rolette.

Schultz first addressed the possibility Tuesday on MSNBC’s “The Ed Show,” when it was brought up by a guest commentator discussing Dorgan’s announcement earlier in the day that he wouldn’t seek re-election in November.

“If I was still there, I’d love to run against the empty suit, because that’s what I used to call John Hoeven, the sitting governor,” Schultz said.

Hoeven hasn’t announced a run for Senate, but said Tuesday that he’s been “looking very seriously” at the race and expects to announce his intentions within a couple of weeks.

Schultz initially quashed the idea of a Senate bid, saying he couldn’t run because of a North Dakota law requiring a candidate to be a state resident for five years. He and his wife have been living in Detroit Lakes, Minn., for the past two years, he said.

However, the residency law Schultz apparently was referring to pertains to statewide executive offices. The U.S. Constitution requires only that a U.S. Senate candidate be “an inhabitant of that state for which he shall be chosen.”

Schultz owns a home in Fargo, as well as a home and 60 acres of hunting land in Mott, N.D., he said. He also owns and operates two businesses in the state: Ed Schultz Broadcasting LLC and E.A. Schultz Construction LLC.

“I think he’s very much a North Dakotan,” Boucher said.

Schultz spoke on MSNBC again Wednesday morning about being asked to run.

“Well, last night when Sen. Dorgan was talking to me, he asked me how old I was, and I went ‘Uh-oh,’” he said, according to a transcript from MSNBC.

Regarding the call from Boucher, “I asked him very point blank, ‘Is this an official ask?’ and he said, ‘Yes, it is.’ I’m flattered. I’m honored. I can’t say that I’m even considering it right now,” Schultz said.

Schultz said that while polls show Hoeven to be strong as a three-term governor, he believes the Republican is vulnerable.

“I think that he’d be easily challenged in a lot of areas,” Schultz said. “It’ll be very intriguing, but at this point I’m not even at the point of consideration. We’re a long way from that.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mike Nowatzki at (701) 241-5528