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Dale Wetzel, Associated Press Writer, Published October 23 2010

$300K for some to play in North Dakota campaigns

BISMARCK – North Dakota’s contests for agriculture commissioner and public service commissioner are shaping up as the most expensive races for state offices, with rival candidates raising more than $300,000 between them, new disclosure reports say.

Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring, a Republican who is trying to win his first four-year term after losing twice to former Democratic Commissioner Roger Johnson, has raised almost $200,000 in campaign funds, including $39,000 from the North Dakota Farm Bureau’s political action committee.

Goehring is a former Farm Bureau vice president and former president and chairman of the group’s affiliated insurance company, Nodak Mutual Insurance Co., which is based in Fargo. Gov. John Hoeven appointed him agriculture commissioner last year after Johnson resigned to become president of the National Farmers Union.

Goehring’s Democratic challenger, longtime Democratic state House floor leader Merle Boucher, has raised about $160,000, his disclosure reports show, including $85,000 from the North Dakota Democratic Party and an $11,000 contribution from U.S. Sen. Byron Dorgan’s campaign fund. Dorgan is not seeking re-election this year.

Republican Public Service Commissioner Kevin Cramer, who has reported raising about $168,000 for his re-election bid, could be slightly outspent by Democratic challenger Brad Crabtree, who reported collecting about $180,000 in campaign donations.

Crabtree has received $40,000 from the Democratic Party and $11,000 from Dorgan’s campaign fund. Cramer, who ran unsuccessfully for the endorsement of North Dakota Republican convention delegates to run for the U.S. House, put almost $20,000 he raised for his House bid into his PSC re-election effort.

The candidates for North Dakota secretary of state also have a close fundraising contest. Republican Al Jaeger, who was first elected to the job in 1992, has raised almost $72,000, by far his largest fundraising total during his 18-year tenure. However, his Democratic challenger, Grand Forks state Rep. Corey Mock, has raised almost $110,000.

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