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Ryan Johnson, Forum Communications Co., Published March 22 2010

Fong, Goehring, Jaeger receive endorsements at North Dakota GOP convention

The North Dakota Republican Party state convention drew to a close Sunday at Grand Forks’ Alerus Center with three statewide office endorsements going to Republican incumbents.

The endorsements were a formality in some ways because the incumbents were unopposed in their bids to get the official party backing as they gear up for re-election campaigns.

First up was Cory Fong, North Dakota’s Tax Commissioner since 2005. Sunday’s unanimous ballot by about 800 delegates made him the endorsed Republican candidate during the June 8 primaries.

Fong was appointed to the office in 2005 after then-commissioner Rick Clayburgh resigned to become executive director of the North Dakota Bankers Association. Fong defeated Democratic candidate Brent Edison in the 2006 election and kept his office.

In a short acceptance speech, Fong said his time as tax commissioner has been an “honor for me and a privilege that I work hard to earn every day.”

He said North Dakota has been able to cut taxes for the past two legislative sessions and simplify the tax system while most other states are forced to increase revenues, usually by raising taxes. Providing tax relief has been has main focus while in office, Fong said, and it would remain his top goal if re-elected.

“I want to continue to make North Dakota the best place to work, raise a family and start a business,” he said.

Fong also outlined some accomplishments he was involved with over the past four years, such as reforming the tax system and helping to create a more business-friendly environment in the state.

“We haven’t just been talking about tax relief; we’ve actually delivered tax relief in North Dakota,” he said. “Now, that’s what I call getting the job done.”

The North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party will endorse its candidates at the March 26-27 state convention in Fargo.

‘I’m finally here’

Doug Goehring picked up a unanimous endorsement to run as the Republican candidate for Agriculture Commissioner. Goehring, a south central North Dakota farmer, was appointed to the position in April 2009 by Gov. John Hoeven after Roger Johnson resigned to become president of the National Farmers Union.

Prior to the appointment, Goehring had unsuccessfully tried to unseat Johnson, a Democrat, in two elections.

“I wouldn’t be standing here today as a commissioner if it hadn’t been for all of your support and the continued support that you’ve given me over the years,” he said in an acceptance speech. “I’m finally here.”

Goehring said the agriculture industry has undergone big changes over the years, especially in technology, but it still tries to achieve the same result – “to be more efficient and more effective.”

If elected, he said he would remain committed to ensuring the success of agriculture in North Dakota.

“I believe that our future and our success ties right back to the ideas on which this party was founded,” he said. “It’s hard work, perseverance, common sense, honesty, integrity, individual responsibility and empowering the people.”

‘No accidents’

Al Jaeger was unanimously endorsed for the North Dakota secretary of state race. He’s held the office since 1993 and is seeking a sixth term.

Rep. Corey Mock, D-Grand Forks, is seeking the Democrats’ endorsement to run for secretary of state this year.

In an acceptance speech, Jaeger told delegates that he is frequently asked what exactly the secretary of state does. He said the office makes him the state’s chief election official, but he also deals with several other things, such as license and registry issues.

That range of issues means he quite often approaches the state Legislature with proposals to improve areas that he works in, and Jaeger guessed he has helped draft more than 350 bills during his time in office.

“I’ve had the very good fortune of them being highly receptive,” he said.

One of those efforts led to legislation that created business structures such as limited liability companies. Jaeger said 15,000 businesses in the state are now using those laws, which did not exist when he was first elected.

Handling all the office duties that come with election issues is “not a one-person job,” he said, so it’s necessary to form partnerships and work together. Jaeger said voters this year will notice new Internet tools that make it easier than ever to find polling locations and ballots.

“We don’t take anything for granted when it comes to running fair, honest elections with integrity,” he said. “There are no accidents. We have successful elections because we plan for successful elections.”

Jaeger ended his speech by pointing out his re-election isn’t a given, adding it “almost makes me nervous” when people tell him he won’t have a problem winning in the fall.

“It is the score at the end of the game that counts,” he said. “We need your help. We need your support. We need you telling people that this is the best team.”


Johnson is a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.