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Published February 03 2010

Area mayors back Hoeven

Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker and West Fargo Mayor Rich Mattern are among more than 30 North Dakota mayors and tribal leaders formally endorsing Republican Gov. John Hoeven in his bid for the U.S. Senate.

However, state Democrats said it’s premature for local government leaders to endorse any candidate just yet.

“But it doesn’t surprise me,” Democratic NPL-Party Chairman Mark Schneider said Tuesday. “I think the mayors are rallying around what they see as a proven commodity.”

Democrats could see their first official Senate candidate announce intentions this week.

State Sen. Tracy Potter, of Bismarck, intends to seek the Democrat’s endorsement for the U.S. Senate race, Schneider said Tuesday.

Schneider asked mayors to “hold their reins” before forming conclusions on who they support.

“I don’t read these endorsements as they’re lock-stock-and-barrel behind the governor for Senate,” Schneider said. “We would like to think that they’re open-minded enough that they will make their decision on the merits once we have a candidate.”

The post of mayor is typically a nonpartisan position. Others listed as endorsing the Republican Hoeven include mayors of some of the state’s largest cities such as Bismarck, Grand Forks, Minot, Dickinson, Wahpeton and Jamestown, and the tribal chairpersons of the Three Affiliated Tribes, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and the Spirit Lake Tribe.

The mayors and tribal chairpersons will serve on the Hoeven for Senate Honorary Committee, his campaign said.

“We’re deeply appreciative of the support from mayors of communities both large and small from across the state,” Hoeven said in a campaign statement Tuesday. “Together, we’ve forged good working relationships, and we value their input and commitment to building the future of our state.”

Walaker and Mattern both have publicly supported Hoeven’s bid since it was launched in early January. Both mayors stood on the stage with Hoeven during his first campaign rally in Fargo two weeks ago, when Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell threw his weight behind the governor’s Senate bid.

Other mayors endorsing Hoeven praised him for his leadership and accomplishments in creating jobs.

“I have the utmost respect for John,” Minot Mayor Curt Zimbelman said. “He’s proven himself to be a good leader as governor. I just think you couldn’t find a better man to represent North Dakota as our next U.S. Senator.”

Republican Paul Sorum, a Fargo architect and business consultant, previously declared for the race and will vie against Hoeven for the state GOP nomination in March.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541