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Published February 03 2010

State Sen. Potter in Senate race for Democrats

A North Dakota state senator is set to become the first declared Democratic-NPL Party candidate for the state’s U.S. Senate race.

State Sen. Tracy Potter of Bismarck is holding a news conference on Friday in Fargo to announce his intentions for the race, but would not confirm or deny his candidacy on Tuesday.

However, Democratic NPL-Party Chairman Mark Schneider said Potter intends to seek the party’s nomination for the Senate race.

Potter’s candidacy would make him a challenger against GOP candidates Gov. John Hoeven and Paul Sorum, a Fargo architect and business consultant.

Schneider praised Potter for his leadership in the state Senate, where he has served since 2007.

“He’s a longtime Democrat in state office and managed to win in a district that’s been historically Republican,” Schneider said. “He’s a welcomed progressive voice. We’re glad to have him in the race.”

But in declaring for the U.S. Senate race, Potter gives up his chances of returning to the North Dakota Legislature because his seat is up for re-election this year.

Potter had a public discussion about his intentions on his Facebook profile, where he asked friends on the social networking site which race he should run for.

“I know I’m running for a Senate seat in 2010. I just don’t know which one and it’s got me a little churned up in my otherwise placid core,” Potter wrote in an update on Saturday morning, seeking advice from his friends. “Let’s say you’re my focus group. Any advice: North Dakota Senate or United States Senate? The former is a 51/49 proposition, the latter not quite as favorable a chance.”

He received 17 responses from friends offering varying opinions, and wrote Sunday evening: “Thanks everyone, I’m thinking hard.”

Potter, 59, represents District 35, which includes Bismarck. He also serves as executive director of the Fort Abraham Lincoln Foundation. He received bachelor’s and master’s degrees in history from the University of North Dakota.

Schneider said he expects other Dem-NPL candidates to declare for the race once former attorney general Heidi Heitkamp announces her intentions.

Many state Democrats have voiced support for a Heitkamp bid, but the former gubernatorial candidate has been silent on her Senate intentions since an initial media statement in early January acknowledging she was considering it.

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