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By Ryan Johnson, Forum Communications Co., Published May 23 2010

Dorgan not slowing down in his final term

Byron Dorgan said he still has the “appetite” to work on his top priorities and doesn’t think being in his final Senate term will change his approach to the job.

“I’ve never spent time worrying about polling numbers on issues,” Dorgan told the Grand Forks Herald on Thursday. “I try to think through what’s the right approach for our country and our state, so that hasn’t changed at all.

“I’ve always had a pretty good sense of who I represent and why I’m here.”

Dorgan announced in January that he would not seek a fourth term in the Senate, a position he has held since 1992. His final term expires Jan. 3.

Republican Gov. John Hoeven, Democratic state Sen. Tracy Potter and Libertarian candidate Keith Hanson are running for Dorgan’s spot.

Dorgan, a Democrat, started his political career at age 26 when he was appointed North Dakota Tax Commissioner in 1969. He held the position until becoming the state’s lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1980 and has been the state’s junior senator since 1992.

That adds up to 41 years in the political arena.

“That’s a long time,” Dorgan said, adding that he’s “anxious” for the next chapter of his career. He’s still considering his options for now, and said ethics requirements in Congress mean he needs to postpone a decision until the end of his term.

“There will be time for me to make judgments about what’s next,” he said. “I’m excited about a number of opportunities that I think will be an exciting next chapter.”

But Dorgan said he’ll remain focused on his Senate responsibilities until that next phase begins.

“Between now and the end of my term, I intend to work very hard on these issues,” Dorgan said.

And he said people shouldn’t expect him to slow down during his final months in office.

“I’m still working very hard because I’ve got a lot of things yet to do that I want to get done,” he said. “I still work long hours, and I still have an appetite to do this.”

Term goals

One of Dorgan’s biggest goals for the rest of his term is to work on legislation that will “further strengthen” the Red River Valley Research Corridor and bring more jobs to the state.

The corridor, something Dorgan proposed in early 2002, is designed to draw federal research dollars to the state and spur economic development. Anchored by the University of North Dakota and North Dakota State University, the initiative has brought more than $600 million into the region to build labs and help local firms secure federal contracts.

Dorgan said the effort already is making a big impact in the state. One example was last week’s Unmanned Aircraft Systems Action Summit in Grand Forks that was hosted by Dorgan to continue the effort to develop the region’s UAS potential.

“This all comes from the creation of the Red River Valley Research Corridor and, in this case, the Center for UAS Research,” he said.

The center was established at UND in 2006, bringing university researchers together to work on development of the UAS industry.

As a result of funding and supporting these initiatives, Dorgan said, “we’re starting to see jobs and companies located in our region.” Along with other efforts, these initiatives are designed to “create a different kind of economy in North Dakota going forward,” he said.

Dorgan also wants to continue work on the Fargo flood-control project and address Devils Lake flooding issues, he said.

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